Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, Department of Environmental Conservation and Canal Corporation Providing Support to Local Firefighting Efforts
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced State support to mitigate the devastating effects of a severe industrial fire in Lockport. Three State agencies – the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, Department of Environmental Conservation, and Canal Corporation – are deploying resources and working closely with local officials on the ground beginning today. The State is helping to determine the origin and cause of the fire and control any resulting environmental damage.
“While this industrial fire has been contained, much work remains to determine its cause and limit the potential impact on the surrounding neighborhoods in Lockport,” Governor Cuomo said. “I am directing these agencies to lend their support to local officials to ensure the safety of everyone living near this blaze and to protect the surrounding area from lingering damage.”
Niagara County Emergency Services continues to extinguish any remaining hot spots. During the height of the fire, and in addition to the municipal hydrant system, water from the Erie Canal was pumped to supply 19 fire engines, three aerial ladders, and seven tankers. Two ambulances were also on the scene. Excavators are now on site to begin taking apart remaining structures to ensure final fire extinguishment. Yesterday, fire officials evacuated individuals from approximately 200 homes in the immediate area as a precaution. The American Red Cross and the Salvation Army each opened shelters to accommodate those who needed safe shelter. Niagara County Emergency Services will determine when it is safe for individuals to return home.
The investigation into the cause and origin of the fire is ongoing, and the Lockport Fire Department has requested the assistance of the New York State Office of Fire Prevention to aide in this effort. Fire investigations by nature are a measured and deliberate process, but given the complexity and magnitude of the fire, and its resultant damage, it is anticipated that this investigation will take time.
Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services Commissioner John P. Melville said, “The Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services Office of Fire Prevention and Control provided assistance to the Lockport Fire Department and Niagara County Fire Coordinator’s office last evening to combat this massive industrial fire and they remain active today. Initially OFPC provided staging area management, technical expertise and resource tracking to support the firefighting effort. While these efforts continue today, OFPC is now active in the investigation into the origin and cause of the fire in partnership with local investigatory units.”
Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos said, “Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and community impacted by this major fire in Lockport late last night. DEC staff continue to assist the incredible emergency responders who are working under extreme conditions to contain and extinguish this massive fire, and DEC Spills Response personnel are working with officials to assess and mitigate any impacts to the area.”
During the fire, the Department of Environmental Conservation Spills Response team provided runoff contamination guidance and assisted with runoff control. The Canal Corporation facilitated the closure of Erie Canal Lock E-34/35 and the historic flight of five locks. This action preserved all water for firefighting efforts, and kept any possible runoff contained so that it would not spread downstream. Cinders and fire related debris have been observed and the Canal Corporation is deploying a containment boom with Department of Environmental Conservation oversight to limit the movement of this debris while they are working on re-opening the canal.
Canal Corporation Director Brian U. Stratton said, “During the height of this massive inferno, a large volume of water was pumped from the Erie Canal to support the operations of the Lockport Fire Department as they worked to suppress the flames and contain the fire’s spread. The Erie Canal is a vital resource to the communities along its banks and the Canal Corporation will continue to support the local first responders as they manage this incident.”
High Tread International has a Solid Waste Permit and with Department of Environmental Conservation for the storage of waste tires and an air registration for tire shredding and grinding. Department of Environmental Conservation inspects permitted solid waste facilities biannually, and the last inspection in 2015 found no violations. A Department of Environmental Conservation Emergency Spills Responder reported to the call and has been on site since last night to monitor any offsite environmental impact. Initially, no oil sheen was detected in the Erie Canal, but a sheen has recently been reported and is under investigation by Department of Environmental Conservation Spills staff. When the fire is fully extinguished, Department of Environmental Conservation will work with local officials to determine what environmental actions, if any, are needed to determine extent of any contamination or possible remediation.