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Lockport tire fire continues to smolder with lingering concerns

Day 3 of the tire fire at High Tread International in Lockport. Here's a summary of the latest news from Niagara County:

  • High Tread International is a more than 20-acre tire recycling plant in the west end of the City of Lockport.
  • 40 companies from Niagara, Erie, Orleans and Genesee counties plus from the Air Reserve Base in Niagara Falls have been working to put out the massive blaze that began Wednesday afternoon. Lockport Fire Chief Patrick Brady says the fire was contained Thursday and is under control Friday. Brady says coordination among the many agencies involved has been excellent and he thanks the community for its support and donations of water and other items for to help firefighters in the 90-degree temperatures.
  • Lockport Police Detective Lt. Todd Chenez says some 200 homes - on West Avenue, Stevens, Prospect, Ohio, South Bristol, South New York, Bacon, Webb and Windsor streets - neighboring the plant were initially evacuated. Three shelters were opened, however, Lockport Mayor Ann McCaffrey says most evacuees stayed with family and friends. Some residents have been allowed back in their homes - on West Avenue and Ohio and and South New York streets.
  • Given the size of the industrial fire, water had to be taken from the Erie Canal to help douse the flames. McCaffrey says an oil and debris sheen from the fire has appeared on the Canal and a contractor has been hired to clean it up. However, city drinking water does not come from the Canal and drinking water remains safe. At times, burning rubber can be smelled in the air.
  • The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has been monitoring water and air quality. DEC Spill Response Team Technician Raymond Jonak notes there are thousands of one-ton bags of crumb rubber in the tire recycling plant. He did not know if the fire started there, but the large number of small particles was making it even more difficult to put out flames.
  • A Lockport teen has reportedly been missing since the start of the fire and his family is worried he may be trapped inside and/or was one a several teens seen on video surveillance of the industrial property when the fire began. Chenez says police are investigating and would not confirm whether Lockport high school freshman Joe Phillips is that teen. Phillips' sister Alyssa has posted on Facebook, "There is no, none, nada official information that my younger brother is even dead. For all we know he escaped the fire and ran away." She also thank fire investigators for searching for her brother. The current owner of High Tread also has been reported saying the fire was maliciously set by teens.
  • The property has been cited and fined by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration for several previous violations under previous ownership. Stevens Street evacuee Jeff Artieri says he has lived next to the property for some 20 years and has no plans to move, but he wishes this is the last time his family has to deal with fires at the plant. Nearby workers in the industrial area of the fire confirm they have dealt with previous fires at High Tread, but are trying to get into work around the street closures as best possible and continuing their jobs normally.
  • McCaffrey says she will be talking with Senator Rob Ortt Friday morning to request state funds to help pay for firefighting efforts.

Many more photos of the fire Day 1 and Day 2 courtesy of the Niagara County Fire Wire are available on Facebook.

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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