Injured New York Firefighter Remains Serious

Dec. 30, 2008
Four firefighters were hospitalized after a wall fell on them.

One firefighter who had a building fall on him a week ago today in Friendship remains in serious condition in the intensive care unit at the Erie County Medical Center (ECMC) in Buffalo.

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Thomas Torpey, 29, of Friendship, was first in critical condition but improved to serious on Monday, ECMC officials said Saturday night.

The exact cause of the fire still has not been determined, but Allegany County Fire Coordinator Paul Gallmann said, "We are 99 percent sure it was not suspicious."

On Sunday just before 6 a.m., Carlin's Pizza Pit-Stop caught on fire on Main Street in Friendship. Firefighters arrived on the scene and a back wall of the building fell on first-responders. Three firefighters from Cuba and one from Friendship went to Jones Memorial Hospital.

Two of the firefighters, Nick Sweet of Cuba and Bryant Hughes of Cuba were transported to the Erie County Medical Center where they were released and still have out-patient treatment. Firefighter Aaron Appleby was treated and released from Jones Memorial.

The restaurant is next to Friendship Hardware and the old Holly Farms supermarket.The restaurant was open the night before the fire.

Because of structure damage to the buildings, town officials are not allowing excavating work to be done at this time.

The New York State Fire Service was at the scene hours after the fire was out Sunday and remained in town this week.

"They sure it's not suspicious," said Gallmann. "The state guys want to come back once they can get in to come up with a definite cause. We just know it was somewhere in the kitchen part."

Jason Butts, the first lieutenant for the Cuba Fire Department, has a Web site ( and he is updating the condition of Torpey along with updates on Sweet and Hughes.

Butts said the Torpey family said Torpey was asked to move both of his legs and he did so, but want to remind everyone, "That does not mean he is out of the woods yet."

His doctor said he would like as many cards as possible, Butts said. Cards can be sent in care of Thomas Torpey to the Friendship Fire Department, P.O. Box 503, Friendship, N.Y., 14739.

On Tuesday when Sweet and Hughes returned from ECMC, many met at the Cuba Fire Department to greet them. They looked over their helmets from the fire.

The association that checks accidents under the Department of State was in Friendship to see if the firefighters were in proper gear and what happened during the fire.

"Everybody had gear on and I do not think there will be any violations from the fire," said Gallmann. "Seriously, when I joined the fire service, that (wall collapsing) would have killed someone -- back then nobody put on gear." Gallmann said the state inspectors were "quite understanding" when they saw the scene, a pile of rubble in the back of the building. Gallmann said the wall that fell on them was a wall that was put in separate and was not attached to anything. once the roof caved, he said the wall just fell.

"They realized there was not anything you can do about it," said Gallmann. "Firemen put fires out. naturally they are going to try their darndest to do just that. You can have a rule to stay 30 feet back from a building, but that ain't gonna happen."

Gallmann said, "when that roof came down, the wall tipped over like a domino -- there was not a lot of weight there."

Firefighters were able to save the other buildings on the block, Gallmann added.

Republished with permission from the Wellsville Daily Reporter

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