A fire the size of six city blocks at the former Bethlehem Steel plant just south of Buffalo is spreading, forcing residents to shelter in place, prompting officials to move students to other schools and drawing state and federal officials to test for air quality.
The burning structures include a palette factory, plastics and paper recycling businesses, a metal fabricating business and storage for cars and boats, Gregory Butcher, a deputy commission for Erie County Emergency Management Civil Defense and Disaster Preparedness said last this morning.
No cause has been determined at the fire in Lackawanna, he said. Butcher did not confirm other news reports that a worker inside the industrial park had dropped a hot light bulb onto cardboard.
One firefighter has suffered a minor knee injury; no one else is hurt, Butcher said.
But the fire is growing, he added, saying it's far larger than another huge fire in Lockport that burned for nearly three days a few weeks ago.
"This dwarfs that fire in comparison," he said.
As of late this morning, firefighters stopped battling the fire from the inside and instead began working in a defensive position, Butcher said.
In addition to fighting the fire, officials are concerned about the growing plume of smoke and a wind shift expected this afternoon.
"The plume has sunk down on the porches of Hamburg," Butcher said. It could move as far as Orchard Park, which is about eight miles to the east.
Other updates and info:
Shelter in place still in effect for residents from Lackawanna to Athol Springs, including residents in Hamburg & Lake Shore. Close windows and doors.
Don't handle any debris from the fire, Butcher said. He does not know for sure, but the site's age suggests there could be asbestos involved.
The wind is expected to change in the early afternoon, around 2 p.m. Look for more updates then.