Buffalo firefighter killed in explosive backdraft is mourned


A firefighter who died in an explosive blaze in Buffalo, New York, last week was remembered at his funeral on Friday as a talented cook who whipped up delicious meals for his colleagues and as a husband and father who loved his family and his city.

Firefighter Jason Arno “was a socialite, master chef, gambler, magician, server and firefighter,” his brother Delton Arno told mourners at St. Joseph Cathedral in Buffalo. “Every new day made memories for a hundred lifetimes.”

Delton Arno said he and his brother were together “through summer bikes, boats, trampolines laser tag, hikes on islands, being stranded in the airport, drinks in Mexico, funerals,” adding, “More than anything I am so thankful.”

Jason Arno, 37, was battling a blaze in a vacant commercial building on March 1 when an explosive backdraft sent flames shooting through the windows and knocked firefighters outside to the sidewalk.

Arno issued a mayday call from inside the building, then went silent. His body was found hours later.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

A light snow fell Friday as thousands of firefighters from around the country gathered outside the cathedral.

Inside, mourners remembered Arno as a Buffalo native who loved his family and his city.

“He made it his mission to make our city a better and safer place for everyone,” Mayor Byron Brown said.

Brown said that after graduating from an all-boys Roman Catholic high school in Buffalo, Arno, who was known as Jay, enrolled in culinary school at a local community college and was chosen for an internship at a top restaurant in Italy.

Arno worked at restaurants and bars around Buffalo, Brown said, and then saw his life change in 2019 when he and wife Sarah-Elizabeth welcomed their baby daughter Olivia.

“Putting family first, Jay made the decision to enter the fire academy in February of 2020 and soon became one of Buffalo’s brave and committed firefighters,” the mayor said.

Vincent Ventresca, president of firefighters union Local 282, said Arno loved being a firefighter and was a valued crew member everywhere he went.

“Jay loved to cook and he was awesome at it, which works out well because firefighters love to eat,” Ventresca said. “There is truly something special about sharing a well-cooked meal with your crew at the firehouse.”

Arno’s death was the first line-of-duty firefighter death in Buffalo, a city of 276,000 in western New York, since two firefighters fell through the floor of a burning building and died in August 2009.


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