Niagara Street blaze raises questions

The former Frosted Mug and the house next door on Niagara Street in Niagara Falls burned on Sunday. (Robshots photo)

What had been a neighborhood eyesore is now a vacant lot.

So too is the home that used to stand next it. 

And what caused the roaring inferno that destroyed the former Frosted Mug tavern will likely remain a mystery.

The intense flames and searing heat reduced the rear of the two-and-a-half story wood frame building to rubble would have destroyed much of the evidence of what sparked the blaze at the that once-popular South End bar. Officially, the cause of the fire remains "under investigation."

When Falls fighters arrived on the scene, early Sunday morning, they found the back half the building completely engulfed in flames. Reports from the scene suggested that there were signs of multiple hot spots inside the structure.

Fire officials confirmed that natural gas and electrical utilities to the building had previously been shut-off.

Falls Fire Chief Joe Pedulla told reporters at the scene that "there was fire everywhere." He said the first arriving firefighters almost immediately turned their attention to protecting the occupied home next to the bar.

A portion of the rear of the bar wrapped around the home, hindering efforts by firefighters to stop the spread for the flames. Five adults who lived in the home were left homeless and received assistance from the Red Cross.

Fire crews also managed to rescue a pet cat from inside the home. Both structures were declared as "total losses" and were demolished by Monday afternoon. 

Fire officials said the blaze was the third fire in the bar in the last eight months. The two previous fires caused less extensive damage.

The rundown bar had become a cause of the late community activist Ron Anderluh in recent years. Anderluh would regularly plead with members of the Falls City Council to "do something" about the property that he called a "tragedy waiting to happen."

At one of the last council meetings that Anderluh attended, he shoved a handful of photographs of the dilapidated structure into the hands of a Gazette reporter.

"Here," he said. "Maybe you can do something.'

But city officials said their hands were tied when it came to removing the blighted building.

"There wasn't a single person who didn't want that (building) to come down," City Council Chair Kenny Tompkins said. "But it was privately owned and the (property) taxes were paid."

Tompkins said "everybody knew (the building) was bad." It was assessed on the city's property tax rolls for just $11,500 which is significantly more than the purchase price of $4,000, paid for the property in 2019 by current owners Linda Sisco and Brian Pettengill. Neither Sisco nor Pettengill could immediately be reached for comment on the fire.

Sources say the property had recently been listed for sale. The sale listing reportedly suggested that the property was in such bad shape that it should be considered an empty lot.

Prior to Sisco and Pettengill, records show that the building was purchased by the city in 1989 for $50,000. It was sold at a tax auction in 2017 to Visionary Renovations for $1.

It was Visionary who sold the bar to Sisco and Pettengill.

 

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