LACKAWANNA, NY – “When you have a disaster of this capacity you’re just going to get high costs,” said Lackawanna Mayor Geoffrey M. Szymanski, regarding a devastating fire which consumed portions of the former Bethlehem Steel plant on Route 5.
But just how much, between the cost for firefighters, including the many from the City of Buffalo who were brought in to quell the blaze, overtime for police and other civil servants? And the demolition crews currently on site?
Szymanski could only guess, conservatively estimating it will be in the “hundreds of thousands” of dollars.
"We really haven't had much of an idea of costs right now because right now we have no bills coming in,” Szymanski told WGRZ-TV. “But it's gonna be a pretty hefty bill," he said
The City of Buffalo has yet to publicly state the amount it spent as part of its mutual aid effort, but as recently as last Friday, the city’s Fire Commissioner Garnell Whitfield said it wasn’t of primary concern.
"We're not really concerned about costs right now,” said Whitfield. “We're concerned about putting this fire out and rendering this community safe."
When Gov. Andrew Cuomo stopped by the fire scene last week, he said the state was ready and willing to provide all forms of assistance.
Local officials say they hope that will include financial aid.
"We're anticipating the cost gets picked up to a certain degree of good measure, but there's no guarantee," said Szymanski, who added that because a state of emergency (still in effect as of Monday) had been declared, he was hoping there could be an influx of federal dollars to defray costs as well.
The property owner Great Lakes Industrial Development, has also yet to tabulate a dollar amount for its losses not only from the fire, but also in terms of demolition and cleanup.
A spokesperson says that won’t be possible until the company is allowed full access to the site.
“There's no way anyone could possibly be prepared for something like this of this magnitude…we're just preparing for the worst and hoping for the best,” Szymanski said.