Another step towards normalcy, Route 5 reopens in wake of Bethlehem Steel fire
On day four of the saga of the Bethlehem Steel fire in the City of Lackawanna, another big step was taken towards a return to normalcy. After yet another day of firefighting and emergency demolition, conditions were finally met to reopen the Bethlehem Park neighborhood’s main roadway.
“We brought everybody together who had a stake in this disaster, and said we want to open up Route 5,” explained City of Lackawanna Mayor Geoffrey Szymanski. “I had to ask DOT, the Town of Hamburg – because their police officers are blocking off the roads too, State Troopers, Buffalo Fire, Lackawanna Fire, Lackawanna Public Works. We all coordinated and said we’re all agreed that we should be able to open up the street up at Route 5.”
The roadway was opened to regular traffic at 5 p.m. on Saturday. Szymanski said the key would be to make sure everything ran smoothly. He urged anyone looking to come get a peek at what remains of the former Bethlehem Steel plant to steer clear of the area.
“There’s only one way in and out of Bethlehem Park, and that’s through Route 5. So people are always thinking that there’s an alternate exit out, and there isn’t. So we’re asking people, please, do not go into Bethlehem Park unless you live there, or you’re going to Mulberry Restaurant.”
The already compact neighborhood, with its narrow streets, is still overrun with heavy equipment and firefighting vehicles. It’s why two of its side streets – Lincoln Avenue and Adams Street – remain closed to anyone but residents and emergency personnel.
“What people were doing was they were entering through Madison Avenue – which is the main road through Bethlehem Park – and just trying to get a way out,” said Szymanski. “They were winding up on the streets where we had designated be closed. So we had to have it sealed off because Lincoln is the Street closest to the steel plant and where the fire is so that’s where all the emergency equipment is going to be going. Some people live there and of course they can use those roads because that’s their home.”
After four days of firefighting, demolition, and support to Bethlehem Park residents, Szymanski made certain to praise the efforts of everyone who’s offered a helping hand in battling the historic fire.
“I’m just so proud of everybody, including the community,” said Szymanski. “We had so many people come through to help out. So many different organizations – federal, state, county, local. Tons of restaurants. There were coffee wars happening – Tim Hortons versus Dunkin Donuts, versus McDonalds Coffee. It was fantastic. Everyone came out to help out. It was really special.”
Fire crews are still working to douse pockets of burning material inside what remains of the building, and Szymanski said there’s still no set expectation of when the fire fight will be finished.