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Pediatrician, two daughters killed in North Buffalo blaze

A Buffalo pediatrician and two of his daughters died in an overnight fire in North Buffalo, according to the Buffalo Fire Department.

The mother was in serious condition after suffering smoke inhalation in the fire at 194 Huntington Ave. She was taken by ambulance to Erie County Medical Center.

Relatives confirmed the three who died were Dr. Jonathan D. Daniels, 53, who was one of only a handful of Black pediatricians practicing in the Buffalo area, and daughters, Jordan A. Daniels, 27, and Jensen A. Daniels, 23.

The mother, Janessa Givens-Daniels, 53, a senior associate director of financial aid at University at Buffalo, was able to escape the fire on her own.

The two-alarm blaze erupted at the single-family home on Huntington, between Parker and Voorhees avenues, at about 3:36 a.m., Fire Commissioner William Renaldo said.

Dr. Jonathan Daniels was associate director for admissions at the University at Buffalo’s Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

Firefighters carried out two people who were trapped in the attic. Firefighters got another person out a side window on the second floor, he said.

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Firefighters and AMR ambulance crews performed CPR, but the father and the two daughters died at the scene.

Buffalo firefighters on Monday morning dealt with the aftermath of a triple fatal fire on Huntington Avenue. A 53-year-old woman escaped the blaze and was in serious condition at Erie County Medical Center.

A dog also died in the fire.

Dr. Daniels, who grew up in Buffalo and was the first in his immediate family to graduate from college, said in a story in The Buffalo News published in 2019 that there were few African American students in medical school when he attended 25 years ago at University at Buffalo, and there were still very few. He encouraged New York State to invest more in programs that create a pipeline to medical school for more young African-Americans, Latino and Latina students and others underrepresented in medicine.

Daniels was one of only four Black pediatricians and among only three dozen Black physicians practicing in the Buffalo area, according to the Rev. Kinzer Pointer, the co-convener of the African American Health Equity Task Force.

“African American physicians are not readily available and serve a large African American community in this area,” Pointer said.

The loss of Dr. Daniels is one that the Rev. George Nicholas, leader of the African American Health Equities Task Force, describes as another devastating blow to the Black community.

“I took my sons to Dr. Daniels—all four of them. He was a terrific doctor. He would talk to them about being a Black man and sexuality. It was just that kind of care,” Nicholas said. “He was a good physician, good husband, good man, and good father.”

Daniels’ and his wife also have another daughter, Jillian, who was not present at the time of the fire. 

In an interview with The News, Jillian Daniels said her father was a widely loved pediatrician in the community, who, if he was here would say something like, “we have to keep moving.” 

She said the three Daniels sisters were all the best friends. When she had to make major life decisions, Jillian Daniels said she knew she could turn to both her older and younger sister.

Jordan was witty, caring and strongly believed in everything she did, she said, while Jensen had a fierce intelligence that she truly admired. 

As she attempts to honor her dad’s words and keep moving, Jillian Daniels said she is grateful for her mother’s survival and support from her friends.  

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UB President Satish K. Tripathi issued a statement calling the fire a devastating tragedy. 

“As a university community, our collective hearts are broken with the devastating tragedy that claimed the life of beloved faculty member, Dr. Daniels and his two cherished daughters, one of whom is an alumna,” said Tripathi. “Our deepest sympathies and thoughts are with Janessa as we pray for her full recovery.”

Jordan Daniels received her MBA degree from the University at Buffalo School of Management in May. 

Dr. Daniels served as associate director of admissions in UB’s Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. 

“Dr. Daniels was a treasured colleague, physician, mentor and friend, and his absence will leave an unfillable hole in our school community,” said Dr. Allison Brashear, UB vice president for health sciences and dean of the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. “He was a tireless advocate for diversifying the physician workforce and has worked closely with the Associated Medical Schools of New York to expand the pool of scholars choosing careers in medicine and health care, by providing academic enrichment and support to students from educationally and/or economically underserved backgrounds.”

While seeking his undergraduate degree, Dr. Daniels joined the United States Army Reserve 365th Evacuation Hospital during his sophomore year so that he could repay student loans. He served as a combat medic during Operation Desert Storm.

After returning to Buffalo and finishing his undergraduate degree, Daniels enrolled in and completed his residency at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

Sirens woke neighbors

The smell of smoke lingered in the air on Huntington Avenue on Monday morning, as onlookers stopped to observe the scene. A woman left a bouquet of flowers. 

Sirens from the fire trucks woke up neighbors, said Holly Cercone, another resident of the neighborhood.

“I just immediately started praying because I’ve never heard that many sirens before,” she said.

In nearly 25 years of living in the neighborhood, Cercone said she’d never witnessed this level of devastation. 

“If you come by here, and you look at this, what’s left of this house, and your heart’s not moved? I don’t know,” she added.

John Fantini, a neighbor who witnessed the fire from his home across the street, said the sirens also woke him up. When he looked outside his bedroom window, he could see the back of the house engulfed in flames.

“I’ve never been this close to a house fire like that,” he added.

Neighbors told fire investigators they saw flames in the rear of the home. When firefighters arrived, there were flames coming from the attic window, the commissioner said.

Investigators believe the fire started on the second floor and spread to the attic.

The cause of the blaze was under investigation. It was not believed to be fireworks-related.

Five firefighters were injured and taken to ECMC, where they were treated and released. Several suffered minor burns to their ears and neck. One suffered an ankle and knee injury.

The fire department estimated damage to the home at about $230,000. A neighboring home at 200 Huntington sustained about $55,000 in exposure damage.

News Staff Reporter Leah Clark contributed to this report.

Buffalo firefighters on Monday morning dealt with the aftermath of a triple fatal fire on Huntington Avenue, the cause of which was under investigation.

Reach Aaron at abesecker[at] or 716-849-4602.

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