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7 Investigates: Where are the Lackawanna fire inspection reports?

City officials said they would provide them
Posted at 12:28 PM, Dec 07, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-07 18:39:23-05

The massive Lackawanna fire that sent the former Bethlehem Steel site up in flames on Nov. 9 surprised many.

But a source with knowledge of the situation told 7 Eyewitness News that he feared a fire would break out there years ago because he said the former steel plant had not had a yearly fire inspection by the city in years -- a claim which city officials immediately refuted.

“Our fire inspector has been on the property as recent as two months ago,” Lackawanna Development Director Fred Heinle said at the scene of the fire.

Just days later, Lackawanna officials appeared to change their story -- they were saying that the last fire inspection was not two months from the date of the fire, but two years.

We asked to see proof of those inspections via the basic fire inspection reports that are filled out each time a city fire inspector completes his rounds -- and residents whose homes had been covered in soot told us they were interested in the results, too.

"My main question is the inspection of that building," said Lackawanna resident Suzanne Trala. "There's nobody talking about, you know, codes. I want to know what the codes were for that building and if they were up to date. I would love to see that report."

It’s been nearly a month since we first asked for copies of those records on Nov. 10 -- and still, no sign of the documents.

Under New York State’s Freedom of Information Law, government agencies are required to at least acknowledge the receipt of a public records request within five days, and then provide those records within 20 days (or at least explain why they need a time extension to do so).

Not only have Lackawanna officials not provided the records -- they didn’t even acknowledge the request until Tuesday, when we finally got City Attorney Antonio Savaglio to talk to us on the phone.

Savaglio said he would talk to the fire chief and try to track down the records.

He asked that we forward him a copy of the original request because he was not entirely clear for what we had asked.

So one month after the fire, the clock has started ticking all over again.

Lackawanna residents can only hope that this time, the request is taken seriously -- and that the results will shed some light on what really happened before the big blaze broke out.