Lackawanna Mayor Geoff Szymanski declared a state of emergency in his city during the noon hour, calling for the evacuation of residents living near the site of a former Bethlehem Steel building where a fire continues to burn since Wednesday.
Szymanski issued the following statement on the city's social media accounts: "This is Lackawanna mayor Geoff Szymanski with an important community conversation.
"As mayor of the City of Lackawanna, I am declaring a State of Emergency for the city of Lackawanna.
"Bethlehem Park residents are to be evacuated from their homes.
"If Bethlehem Park residents can stay with loved ones, not in Bethlehem Park, please go there. For those who need a warming shelter, we are asking people to please move to the Senior Center or the High School.
"For those residents who don’t have the capacity to drive, we will be supplying buses to help make the temporary move. Please bring only bare essentials, blankets. Etc. no pets. If you are aware of any person who has special needs for this move, please call the Lackawanna Police Department
"Please turn you thermostats down to a reasonable level.
"If you need a ride, please call 822-4900."
Szymanski joined numerous other officials. including Governor Andrew Cuomo, at the fire scene shortly before the decision was made to declare the state of emergency.
Buffalo Fire crews, who were asked by the City of Lackawanna to take the lead in battling the ongoing fire, were still spraying areas of the massive structure that was reportedly being used by several companies as a storage space.
"The DEC, the EPA, Buffalo Hazmat, Erie County Hazmat and a number of other agencies are here on scene. They have been from the beginning, monitoring the air quality out here," said Buffalo Fire Commissioner Garnell Whitfield.
Matt Franklin, director of emergency response for the New York State DEC, said a dozen monitors were dispatched to measure the air for potential "volatile organic compounds," or chemicals he says can be found in typical facility fires.
"As the wind changes and the plume changes, we're moving and strategically locating for most sensitive impacts and areas most likely to be impacted," Franklin said.