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Neighbors of Bethlehem Steel fire taking legal action

Posted at 12:49 AM, Jan 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-26 00:49:17-05

LACKAWANNA, N.Y. (WKBW) — The Bethlehem Steel fire was a destructive inferno that tore through an old, but still active, industrial building on the Lackawanna-Hamburg border. No one was hurt or killed the day of the fire in November of 2016.

The attorneys representing the neighbors who live in the surrounding areas say that's not the case for the months and years following the fire.

In a series of claims against the owners of the property, including Great Lakes Industrial Development, people died from the chemicals found in the smoke and soot.

“Cancers, thyroid problems, aggravation of other injuries, so, there's such a volume of chemicals that were released and they were here for so long and ended up in the soot on houses and in the smoke plume. So, people had their windows, their walls, their floors, everything covered with that,” said Jeanne Vinal. She is representing 30 neighbors in Lackawanna and Hamburg for everything from melted siding to deaths.

In the days after the fire, the New York State DEC recorded elevated levels of particulate matter and benzene in the air.

While the Bethlehem Steel site passed a fire inspection before the flames erupted in 2016, Vinal says the owners of the building showed gross negligence.

“Every property owner has a duty to have their property in a condition that is reasonably safe for the conditions. Here you had so many people working there, housing and keeping all kinds of dangerous chemicals. I think it would be reasonable to have adequate fire detecting equipment and fire suppression equipment,” added Vinal.

Vinal is attempting to make this a class-action suit.

Great Lakes Industrial Development did not provide a comment regarding this legal action.