A fire the size of six city blocks at the former Bethlehem Steel plant just south of Buffalo, NY, forced residents to shelter in place Wednesday, 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, said Gregory Butcher, a deputy commission for Erie County Emergency Management Civil Defense and Disaster Preparedness.
No cause has been determined at the fire in Lackawanna, he said.
One firefighter suffered a minor knee injury; no one else is hurt, Butcher said.
As of late Wednesday 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 fear the growing plume of smoke and a wind shift expected later on in the day.
“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.
Butcher said the site’s age suggests there could be asbestos involved.