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Cause of massive Lackawanna fire 'undetermined,' investigators say

WBFO's Avery Schneider

Ten months worth of investigation into the massive Bethlehem Steel site fire in Lackawanna last November has resulted in an undetermined cause.

James Otwell, Chief of the Buffalo Fire Investigation Unit, said investigators were unable to detect what started the November 7, 2016 fire, which lasted four days and disrupted area resident and commuter routines.

Otwell said he is highly certain the fire was caused by a broken light bulb as originally reported by authorities. However, no one saw it happen, so it cannot be definitively ruled as the cause of the fire.

Credit WBFO's Avery Schneider

The building on fire was owned by Great Lakes Industrial Development, located in the Steel Works Industrial Park on the former Bethlehem Steel site on Route 5 in Lackawanna. It damaged space occupied by Industrial Materials Recycling, a post-industrial plastics recycler, which grinds discarded plastic products into granular plastic that is sold to manufacturers where the material is recycled into the manufacturing process.

Some 300 homes in Lackawanna's Bethlehem Park neighborhood were evacuated the night of November 10 because of hazardous air quality from the fire. The blaze also affected nearly 20 businesses.

More than 100 firefighters from multiple area fire stations rotated on duty. Federal, state and local agencies, including the ATF, EPA and DEC also assisted.

Mark Wozniak, WBFO's local All Things Considered host, has been at WBFO since mid-1978.
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