A man was arrested Tuesday and charged with torching his own family’s home on East Delavan Avenue, where firefighters rescued the suspect’s daughter from the second floor of the burning building.
Firefighters Dwayne Cathcart and John Keany of Engine 31 were credited with saving the life of Marlene Casey, 25, who was listed in serious condition Tuesday night in Erie County Medical Center.
“If not for the quick actions of these firefighters — the heroic actions of these firefighters — she might not be with us today,” Mayor Byron W. Brown said.
Casey’s father, Don Norwood, 49, is accused of setting the fire and has been charged with multiple counts of first-degree arson, criminal mischief and reckless endangerment.
The motive appears to be revenge from a domestic argument the night before, said Lt. Sal Colangelo of the fire marshal’s office.
The mayor, Fire Commissioner Michael S. Lombardo and Colangelo praised the two firefighters at a news conference Tuesday afternoon and provided details of the bizarre case.
Norwood was released recently from prison and looking to rejoin his family, when a dispute started in the home at 1370 E. Delavan on Monday night, according to Fire Marshals James O’Neill and Kevin Lozano.
Norwood allegedly hit one of his daughters, and a male friend stepped in to defend her, O’Neill said.
Norwood went across the street and called police to report that he had been assaulted. He was taken by ambulance to Erie County Medical Center but left while waiting in the emergency room.
He returned to the East Delavan Avenue home, where he stood outside, broke windows and made threats to his family, O’Neill said. Norwood then broke into the home and started the fire in the basement, he added.
In the home were Norwood’s wife, Casey, another daughter and two grandchildren, ages 3 and 9, O’Neill said.
The fire spread quickly, and among the firefighters called to the scene at 12:54 a. m. were Cathcart, a 16-veteran of the fire department, and Keany, a 13-year veteran.
By that time, everyone had gotten out of the home safely, except for Casey, who may have been trying to save the family’s cats, O’Neill said.
“As soon as we got there, someone said there were people trapped,” said Keany, 41. “We went down the alley and saw her in the window. People were telling her not to jump.”
The two firefighters grabbed a ladder, standing it on top of a mattress in the alley, which may have been placed there for the woman to jump down.
“I just braced [the ladder], and Dwayne went up,” Keany said.
Cathcart, 45, who did not have time to put on his mask, described what happened next.
“The smoke was choking me, my eyes were burning. I tried to hold my breath going up, because I knew there wasn’t going to be any fresh air up there,” he said.
The smoke was so thick, Cathcart couldn’t see Casey hanging out the second-story window.
“I’m over here! I’m over here!” she reportedly shouted.
Cathcart followed her voice and, while on the ladder, stretched out to his left as far as he could.
“She was kind of just hanging on, and then when she felt my arms, she just lunged toward me,” Cathcart said.
The blaze left an estimated $175,000 damage to the East Delavan home, about eight blocks east of Bailey Avenue.
The fire marshal’s office placed an alert out on Norwood, who was traced to ECMC.
Credited for the arrest were Colangelo, O’Neill and Lozano, as well as Buffalo Police Officers Christopher Pliszka, Joe Wendel, Dawn Lopez and Lt. Greg Kwiatkowski.
Two firefighters were injured at the blaze, including Lt. Ronald Rizzo of Engine 37, who suffered a fractured hip.