Businesses near Bethlehem Steel fire site feeling impact of Rt. 5 closure

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LACKAWANNA, N.Y. (WIVB) – As fire fighters continue to battle the blaze at the former Bethlehem Steel site, Route 5 remains closed, and businesses in that area are dealing with headaches.

Some, like the Woodlawn Diner on Route 5 near the road block at Lake, have chosen to close down for the day.

Just across the street from that, the Golden Pipe Smoke Shop is open. The store closed early Wednesday after only one customer came past the road block and into the business. A typical Wednesday usually brings at least 50 customers, even 100 or more on a good day.

The owners decided to remain open during their normal hours Thursday, and hope that more customers would cut through the parking lots next door to get there. “This is my living, my parents living, without any business, it’s hard to pay bills and we’re just trying to hold on,” said Caroyln Bitello, a partner in the Golden Pipe Smoke Shop who runs the business her parents own.

Thursday, Bitello was hoping to get more customers in the door, despite the ongoing road closure. “Posted it on our Facebook page saying we’re open, but since we’ve got it blocked off on the corner, what we’ve gotta do is just wait, I guess.”

Even a few miles from the fire scene, the traffic back ups from the road closure were causing problems for some businesses.

“It’s just the traffic patterns,” said Al Zells, the owner of Cagney’s 2 on Electric Avenue in Lackawanna. “There’s so much traffic, it cuts a lot of people off from going wherever they want to go.”

Even as the traffic continued to move outside Zells’ bar Thursday morning, there was a haze of smoke in the air.

Inside, there were a lot of empty stools were the Cagney’s 2 regulars usually sit. “They’re probably taking care of their kids with the school changes and different things,” Zells suggested.

Several schools in the area cancelled classes for the day because of the smoke. “In our school, we have our windows open a lot and we’re going to inhale all of this,” explained Lackawanna High School Student Malika Snow, adding that her district made the right call to close for the day.

Throughout the day, the wind has continued to shift, changing who is affected by the smoke at any given time.

People around the fire scene are hopeful all of the smoke will be gone soon so life and business can return to normal.

“It’s going to be over in a few days,” Zells said.

Officials have not said when Route 5 could reopen. Crews are still working to fully extinguish the fire.

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