Route 5 to remain closed Friday as demolition continues, evacuees start returning home

LACKAWANNA, N.Y. (WIVB) — Don’t count on being able to drive on a large stretch of Route 5 Friday, as officials do not expect it to reopen until at least the weekend.

The road was closed amid the massive fire at the former Bethlehem Steel site that broke out on Wednesday morning.

On Thursday, fire crews were finally able to start fighting the blaze from the inside. Firefighters have been working in shifts around the clock.

Residents were evacuated from their homes in the afternoon, and were taken to the Senior Center and Lackawanna High School for shelter.

By the time evening came, demolition had begun at the site. Burnt material and lots of rubble created a sizable mess. Demolition itself will happen in phases so that crews can have better access to the building.

(Photo courtesy of Kevin D'Angelo)

(Photo courtesy of Kevin D'Angelo)
(Photos courtesy of Kevin D’Angelo)

Knocking down the front section of the site will help the process of reopening Route 5 move along. Crews want the building to fold inward so that it does not collapse on Route 5.

A full demolition could occur at a later time.

MORE | Information on the demolition and evacuations can be found here.

On Friday at Noon, Buffalo’s Fire Commissioner Garnell Whitfield said that pockets of fire at the site still exist. Millions of gallons of water have been used to fight the fire, Lackawanna Mayor Geoffrey Szymanski said.

Nearly a day after evacuations began, officials said Friday that the evacuation order will be lifted at 2 p.m. and residents could return to their homes. Because of the thick smoke that spread from the scene, health fact sheets will be handed out to people living near the fire later in the day.

As of the Noon conference, EPA levels are still at zero and the air quality looked good Friday morning. It is not clear what materials or chemicals were in the air. Crews are assessing the scene for asbestos.

Federal and state reimbursement could come to Lackawanna. An investigation into the fire can begin after crews finish fighting it.

Lackawanna remains in a State of Emergency. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review. Note: Comments containing links are not allowed.

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