Major fire burning at former Bethlehem Steel site

LACKAWANNA, N.Y. (WIVB) — Crews have closed Route 5 from Mile Strip to Ridge Roads as they battle a large fire burning at the former Bethlehem Steel site. More than 200 firefighters and emergency personnel have responded. Erie County officials, the DEC and EPA are assisting with the fire investigation.

A shelter in place is in effect for people around the site, including Lackawanna, Hamburg and Athol Springs.The Bethelehem Steel site occupies nearly six city blocks.

We’ve learned students and staff from Cloverbank Elementary are being moved to Lakeshore HS. The Frontier Central School District is still working on what will happen to other campuses.

City of Lackawanna Development Director Fred Heinle said 60 to 70 percent of the building was occupied. He said there are boats, trailer and other vehicles inside. Heinle said there is also plastic warehousing facility on site that could be causing the black smoke.

“Stay at home, and don’t come down here. There are more important thing for the police and fire to take care of versus asking people to back up,” Heinle said.

Buffalo Fire Commissioner Garnell Whitfield said his department is helping fire the fire. He said it is a complicated scene, and firefighters cannot go inside the building yet because it is not structurally sound. He said parts of several buildings there are collapsing.

“This is obviously something that’s not the norm for us. This is something very different,” Whitfield said.