One year later- a look back at the Bethlehem Steel fire

LACKAWANNA, N.Y. (WIVB) – Thursday marks one year since flames ripped through the old Bethlehem Steel plant in Lackawanna.

Crews battled the Nov. 9 blaze for almost five days before the fire went out.

A year later, crews are still working at the site of the fire. The clean-up from the fire, which stretched five city blocks, is ongoing.

While the Lackawanna Fire Department isn’t very large, records show they are fast. The fire department arrived on scene within three minutes of the call one year ago. Immediately, they called for mutual aid from the Buffalo Fire Department and other surrounding agencies.

Lackawanna Fire Chief Ralph Galanti said that while the official cause of the fire hasn’t been agreed upon, it was likely due to a high sodium light bulb that blew and melted plastic or some other material below, which then ignited.

The blaze led to the evacuation of the Bethlehem Park neighborhood and cost the city more than $630,000 in combine costs for overtime, air quality tests, and the demolition itself.

Mayor Geoff Szymanski said the city is currently in negotiations with Great Lakes Industrial, the owners of the property, to get some reimbursements for that cost.

The state didn’t come through in the way the city had hoped. While the fire has been ruled accidental, Galanti said Great Lakes could have taken extra precautions.

Galanti added that other companies were renting storage space from Great Lakes, which the city didn’t know.

Szymanski said that having to issue the evacuation order last year still haunts him. He said neighbors in the Bethlehem Park area should not be concerned about long-term health concerns based on air monitoring the city paid for.

He did mention that some of the homes did not receive cleaning from Great Lakes Industrial. 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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