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Large blaze consumes old steel mill near Buffalo

LACKAWANNA, N.Y. - More than 100 firefighters struggled to contain a major blaze is burning at the former Bethlehem Steel site outside Buffalo on Wednesday morning.

Firefighters responded around 7:30 a.m. Wednesday to reports of a fire at the industrial site in the city of Lackawanna, just south of Buffalo.

Fred Heinle, the director of development for the city of Lackawanna, said the fire started early Wednesday when a hot bulb fell on some combustibles like cardboard inside a sprawling building that houses several businesses at the industrial site just south of Buffalo. 

CBS Buffalo affiliate WIVB reports explosions have been heard coming from a burning building on the property located along the Lake Erie shoreline. Erie County Legislator Lynn Dixon says the building belongs to a mulching company. No injuries have been reported.

The intense smoke, which could be seen for miles, prompted authorities to issue a shelter-in-place order for nearby residents.

The flames have since diminished, but smoke continued to spew from the building, which includes a recycling business.

Television news footage shows a large building engulfed in flames as massive clouds of black smoke billow away from nearby homes, and video images show the roof of the building collapsing around 8:30 in the morning.

Workers at nearby buildings are being told to head home.

The fire departments from Lackawanna and neighboring Buffalo responded to the blaze, bringing more than 100 firefighters on the scene, according to Buffalo Fire Commissioner Garnell W. Whitfield, Jr. He said plastic recycling was among the materials inside the building, but firefighters were being kept outside because the roof and some walls had collapsed.

“This is going to be quite a massive operation,” Whitfield said.

Bethlehem Steel operated its sprawling Lackawanna for decades before ending operations in the 1980s. The property is now home to an industrial park that includes a Republic Steel manufacturing plant.

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