Reports: Deadly fire accidentally started by 7 year old victim's father

Court records show father had order of protection against him

Richard Root
January 30, 2018 - 1:53 pm

Courtesy: GoFundMe Conti Family

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Buffalo, NY (WBEN) - Multiple reports surfaced late Monday that the fire that took the life of a 7 year old boy may have been accidentally started by the boy's father when he was lighting a cigarette with a 'blow torch'.  Officially, the cause of the fire remains under investigation.

WBEN has also learned court records showed Joseph Conti had a restraining order against him and was required to stay away from the home and his wife. This stemmed from an incident on New Year's Eve.

A vigil was held at Saints Peter and Paul Church in Buffalo's Lovejoy neighborhood after Anthony Conti died as a result of a three alarm fire overnight.  Two other children were injured in the blaze and a family is left devastated.

The Buffalo Fire Department Chaplain Joseph Bayne opened a Monday afternoon briefing on the Benzinger Street fire with a prayer, saying, "in that Lovejoy, that Iron Island neighborhood, we've lost a precious little one".

The fire began at  59 Benzinger Street in Lovejoy at around 2:45 a.m. Monday morning.  Initial reports were that it was a bed fire, and a massive amount  of flames and smoke could be seen coming from the house.  When fire crews arrived, they reported "victims in the street" and that there were more inside.  Fire Commissioner Vincent Muscarella says crews were on scene within a couple minutes and about 70 firefighters responded to the fire that beganb in a first floor bedroom.

The boy's parents, Joseph and Lisa Conti, and their other children escaped serious injury.

Common Council Member Richard Fontana says the 7-year-old victim, Anthony, was a student at Buffalo Public School No. 43.

Neighbors are collecting donations of money and goods for Conti family. Donations are being collected at the Mead Branch Library on Ludington Ave, a few blocks from the fire scene. Fontana tells us a GoFundMe page has been set up and is linked here. The Buffalo Red Cross reports that they are assisting 3 adults and five children from the scene. 

"We know the young men, and we've known the family for several years. His.. grandmother or great grandmother Jean Conti was the coordinator of our (Lovejoy neighbrohood) Halloween parade for many years. And did so much for our children and to lose one of her descendents at such a young age, we've lost a piece of our future," Fontana said. 

"It hits home", said Commissioner Muscarella.  "I know a lot of the members went home and hugged their kids this morning", Muscarella added.

VIDEO:  Buffalo Fire and city officials briefing on Benzinger St fire

As rescuers went inside the building looking for victims, the fire spread from the first to the second floors and into the attic.  It quickly became a two alarm fire and eventually went to three as it became apparent the attic was burning out of control.

Fire crews began to leave the scene near 7 am,  replaced by a  team of investigators from the Buffalo Fire Department and the Erie County Sheriff's office. As they combed through the fire scene, Buffal;o Police could be seen iinterviewing neighbors and putting up police tape to restrict access to the area.

Two people were pulled from inside the house, at least one of them a child.  WKBW has video of the child victim being taken away from the house in a stretcher.

All fire companies were pulled from inside the house  shortly before the chimney collapeed into the building.

The fire caused $275,000 damage to 59 Benzinger Street and $10,000 to the house next door at 63 Benzinger Street.

AUDIO:  Buffalo Fire officials brief reporters on fire

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