LACKAWANNA, N.Y. (WIVB) — Outbound from Buffalo, Route 5 is closed after Tifft St. and the inbound lane is closed at Lake until further notice as crews battle a large fire burning at the former Bethlehem Steel site. More than 200 firefighters and emergency personnel have responded. Erie County officials, the DEC and EPA are assisting with the fire investigation.
A shelter in place is in effect for people around the site, including Lackawanna and Athol Springs.The Bethelehem Steel site occupies nearly six city blocks.
Students and staff from Cloverbank Elementary were moved to Lakeshore HS.
The shelter in place in the Town of Hamburg was lifted shortly before 3 p.m.
City of Lackawanna Development Director Fred Heinle said 60 to 70 percent of the building was occupied. He said there are boats, trailer and other vehicles inside. Heinle said there is also plastic warehousing facility on site that could be causing the black smoke.
“Stay at home, and don’t come down here. There are more important thing for the police and fire to take care of versus asking people to back up,” Heinle said.
Materials are creating potential respiratory issues at the site.
“Erie County residents in the area affected by this fire should avoid being exposed to the smoke as much as possible,” Gale Burstein, Erie County Commissioner of Health, said. “All smoke contains carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and particulate matter (“PM” or soot). Individuals are advised to limit their physical exertion if exposure to high levels of smoke cannot be avoided. Individuals with cardiovascular or respiratory conditions (e.g. asthma), pregnant women, young children and the elderly may be more vulnerable to the negative health effects of smoke exposure.”
Buffalo Fire Commissioner Garnell Whitfield said his department is helping fight the fire. He said it is a complicated scene, and firefighters could not go inside the building yet because it was not structurally sound. He said parts of several buildings there are collapsing.
“This is obviously something that’s not the norm for us. This is something very different,” Whitfield said.
Our crew at the scene reports huge plumes of black smoke continue pouring out building. It is visible for miles. A worker spotted the fire around 7 a.m. and called 911.
Here are some drone videos of the smoke courtesy of Chris Zak:
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The roof collapsed around 8:30 Wednesday morning. Neighbors reported hearing explosions before 8 a.m. News 4’s Ali Ingersoll tells us workers at nearby buildings were being told to head home.
Officials say a Buffalo firefighter was hurt.
Crews could be at the scene into Sunday. Portions of Route 5 could remain closed for at least 24 hours as of Wednesday afternoon.