Evacuation order partially lifted in Lockport after fire

Posted at 6:01 AM, Aug 11, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-11 21:23:16-04

Lockport Mayor Ann McCaffrey announced Thursday night that some residents who were displaced by Wednesday's fire could safely return home.

As of 9 p.m., an evacuation order was canceled for residents living on West Avenue, Ohio Street, and South New York Street.

The other streets, however, remained closed due to the wind direction and the smoke. Those streets included Webb, South Bristol, Bacon, Sunnyside, Windsor, Prospect and Stevens Street.  The smoke is more concentrated in these areas and therefore these streets remain closed and houses are evacuated. 

Residents seeking shelter can report to either the Salvation Army or the Red Cross shelter at North Park Junior High School.

Police continue to investigate whether someone was stuck inside one of the buildings when a massive blaze broke out at a tire plant.

Police say they are addressing this possibility publicly because of chatter on social media. They say it's unconfirmed if a person was inside one of the buildings, but that person has not been heard from since the fire.

Ann Phillips in Lockport tells 7 Eyewitness News that her 14-year-old son has been missing since before the fire. Joe Phillips was last seen Wednesday at 5:30pm with two of his friends shortly before the fire broke out. He has not been seen since.

She is waiting for crews to be able to get inside the fire zone to determine whether or not he was inside one of the buildings. "No one should have to go through this," Ann told 7 Eyewitness News.

Below is the most recent press conference held by police and fire officials:

City of Lockport Fire Chief Patrick Brady said the massive fire burning along Stevens Street is now under control.

The fire started around 7 p.m. Wednesday at High Tread International prompting the evacuation of a nearby neighborhood.

VIDEOS: See video from every angle, including above the fire, here

PHOTOS: See incredible pictures from the massive blaze here

Acrid smoke blanketed the northeast portion of the City of Lockport while the fire burn, keeping an evacuation order in place for much of the day Wednesday night into early Thursday evening.

Around 200 homes on nine streets were emptied. Chief Brady says none of the homes have suffered "serious" damage.

State officials from the Department of Environmental Conservation told fire crews that while the smoke is a very irritating factor, it's not a severe health hazard at this point. The Health Department determined the air quality to be "satisfactory" and the water quality is "fine," according to officials.

This isn't the first time the plant has burned - watch our report from 2012 here

Six firefighters first arrived to the fire and found a three-story large building fully engulfed in flames.

The facility processes old and used tires into a very small, fine rubber powder.  The building's first floor is thought to have contained ample amounts of the by product.

"It's the product itself and the amount of product they had on scene that led it to where we are," said Chief Brady.

Chief Brady said the fire spread to four buildings before crews got it under control.

An estimated 200 firefighters with 40 pieces of equipment, from 28 fire departments fought the fire from the ground and air.  Another 10 fire departments from around Erie County manned Niagara County fire departments overnight. Chief Brady said several firefighters suffered from heat exhaustion while working on the fire Wednesday.

The city's water system was taxed beyond normal and tanker trucks from as far as Orleans County were used.  Crews also drafted water from the canal system to soak the fire.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.