LACKAWANNA, N.Y. (WIVB) – The mayors of the two cities affected most by the massive fire that struck the former Bethlehem Steel plant in Lackawanna nearly two weeks ago, got a firsthand look at the site Monday morning, with a delegation of other elected officials.
Lackawanna Mayor Geoffrey Szymanski invited Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown to survey the charred remains, with a delegation of top Western New York lawmakers. At the request of Szymanski and Lackawanna’s fire chief, Buffalo took the lead role in putting down the blaze and initiated demolition of the site.
“This was a great example of inter-municipal cooperation,” Szymanski said, “The City of Buffalo came to our aid when we needed them the most, and really worked well with our firefighters, and their firefighters, and all the volunteers that came out to help.”
When it became painfully clear Lackawanna’s fire department was overmatched when the fire broke out on November 9, Szymanski declared a state of emergency, and put out a call for mutual aid. Investigators are still trying to determine the cause of the fire, that damaged or destroyed 7 buildings at the old steel mill.
Mayor Brown said, the city will continue its role in the disaster, “Fire marshals have been working with the Lackawanna Fire Department to determine the cause of the fire. That work is ongoing.”
Buffalo Assemblyman Sean Ryan pointed out fighting the fire was a regional effort, “With one quick phone call to the City of Buffalo, the mutual aid agreement went into effect, and the City of Buffalo was down here, and by the end of it, they were joined by the Town of Hamburg’s volunteer department.”
Brown estimates it cost the city tens of thousands of dollars to answer the mutual aid call, while Szymanski pegs Lackawanna’s costs at $500,000 to initiate the demolition, and another $100,000 in overtime.
But for Szymanski, the Lackawanna native, it cut much deeper, “Growing up here, you always saw these buildings as a symbol of strength, and now looking like this, it just really bothers me.”
As of 4:00 Monday afternoon, Mayor Szymanski cancelled Lackawanna’s state of emergency, and turned the property back over to the owner of the Steel Works Industrial Park to finish the cleanup.