Lackawanna evacuees return to homes near steel plant fire

LACKAWANNA, N.Y. (WIVB) — It will be some time before neighbors living in the area around the former Bethlehem steel plant can return to their normal activities. For now, they’re back at home.

Maureen Zulawksi, an Elm Street resident who had to be evacuated, said, “The smoke was so intense and so smelly it was very hard to breathe.”

Zulawski was evacuated Thursday afternoon. She says shifting winds sent smoke throughout the surrounding neighborhoods. That’s when she was told she should leave.

She said the smoke smelt like burned fireworks. “It gave out a particular odor, and that was the odor. It was something that I haven’t smelled in years, it was very very intense.”

Friday night was the first time Zulawski came back to her neighborhood since the evacuation order was lifted. It was also the first time she saw the full scale of the destruction. She said, “I’m just glad it’s out, they worked so hard and so long and hopefully it comes down and nobody gets hurt.”

After people started coming back home – the New York State Department of Health went door to door to hand out these flyers.The flyers had information about the possible health concerns they could face.

One man who lives near the fire told News 4 why he chose not to leave.

Mike Szczublewski said, “When it first happened it looked like a birthday cake with all of them candles and all of the stacks looked like candles, but thank god the wind blew the other way. I’m sorry it happened going towards Woodlawn and stuff, but being close like this I’m a little happy that it did blow the other way.”

Despite the evacuation order being lifted, the City of Lackawanna is still under a state of emergency and officials are asking residents who live near the fire to limit their time outdoors. 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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