Eleven Alfred students lost everything, and businesses were destroyed in an early morning blaze Thursday.

Eleven Alfred students lost everything, and businesses were destroyed in an early morning blaze Thursday.

Firefighters from across eastern Allegany County were called to the corner of West University Street and North Main Street at around 6:30 a.m. after a report of a fire in progress. According to firefighters, the original 911 call indicated two students were trapped in the building, but Alfred University and police officials said all the students are safe.

“We have every reason to believe they are safe and accounted for,” said AU spokeswoman Deborah Clark, later confirming all were fine.

Nine Alfred University students and two Alfred State College students have been displaced, according to Sue Goetschius, a spokesperson for AU.

The students were taken to the Kenyon-Davis Room at the Powell Campus Center, Clark said, where they would be offered counseling, clothing and food. The university did not immediately have the names of the students living in the apartments available for the media.

The structure, at 3 N. Main St., was a three-story wood and masonry building. Both of the upper floors of the building and its walls collapsed, showering debris onto the sidewalks and streets below. The building is owned by Phil Curran of Alfred, who has operated the Alfred Sports Center there since 1963.

“One of my employees went into the back at about 6:30 a.m. and he realized that there was smoke and a back wall on fire,” said Curran, who also sits on the Alfred town board.

“I really don’t know much about what’s happening. I’ve been standing here wondering, 'What do you do?'” he said as a group of friends consoled him and his wife. 

Curran said he wasn’t sure, but he thought the fire originated in the area of a rear hallway, but said he hadn’t spoken with firefighters yet. He said his employee got out of the business safely.

Once the fire started, it did not take long before the entire building was engulfed. By 7:30 a.m., most of the building was destroyed.

At the scene, several people were embracing one another and were noticeably upset.

“I actually live in the building next to the fire, so I just hope the firefighters are taking the right steps to prevent it from get bigger. It’s kinda scary,”said Paul Tulkis, an AU graduate student from Rockland County.

Tulkis said he was asleep when he awoke to firefighters knocking at his door.

“They were telling people to get out and that there was a fire. Everybody was rushing out of the building,” he said.  

AU officials were unsure of the cause of the blaze, and emergency personnel at the scene also did not report any information about the cause. Allegany County fire investigators were at the scene.

Firefighters could be seen in neighboring buildings, including The Collegiate Restaurant and West Side Wine and Spirits. West Side Wine and Spirits sustained heavy fire damage, but it did not appear as though The Collegiate Restaurant caught fire. The fire could be seen spreading to the upper floor of the West Side Wine building, at 2 W. University St., but there was no word on damage to that building. The Collegiate Restaurant likely sustained heavy water damage. 

“I haven’t slept yet and I stayed up all night and we decided to come down for some breakfast and saw that all of Main Street is on fire,” said Casey Babcock, an ASC student from Hornell, as he snapped photos of the calamity on his cell phone.

“I can’t believe this is happening,” he said.

Water supplies to Alfred State College were shut off to give firefighters enough water pressure to fight the blaze, but Clark was unsure if water was shut off to Alfred University.

All told, Alfred, Alfred Station, Almond, Andover, Canaseraga, Wellsville, and Belfast firefighters responded to the scene with more than a dozen fire trucks, ambulances and other vehicles.

The Evening Tribune (Hornell, N.Y.)