LOCKPORT -- Intruders intentionally set the fire that damaged a Lockport tire recycling company and caused the evacuation of a neighborhood here, said the owner of the tire company.
“It was maliciously set by kids," said Derek Martin, owner of HTI Recycling.
Martin said one of his employees has watched a video of intruders setting papers on fire at a vacant building on HTI property on Stevens Street. Martin said he has not seen the video himself and he did not know how many intruders were involved. Martin declined to say if the video was a surveillance camera video or something a witness shot with a cell phone.
“I just know we have it,” he said of the video.
Lockport fire officials have not said if the fire was intentionally set or talked about the video that Martin mentioned.
The building where the fire started Wednesday evening was previously used as an office by a prior tenant, Buffalo Paperboard, Martin said.
“The fire started inside. They gained entry and started a fire. It wasn’t started outside,” Martin said.
The fire spread from that building to his storage warehouse, where he had about 8 million pounds of ground-up tires stored, Martin said. From there, the fire spread to the HTI mill, or processing building, and also to another structure rented by a tenant, Willow Creek Farms, which processes wooden playground materials.
Martin said he has about 100 people working at HTI Recycling, which has also been called High Tread International. He said he did not know if the fire will cause any loss of jobs.
He said the fire caused HTI to lose about 40 percent of its production capacity, but he was not able to provide a monetary estimate of HTI's losses.
Martin said he intends to rebuild but predicted it will take about six months to rebuild the damaged buildings and acquire new equipment.
The HTI owner said he did not own the business in January 2012 when there was a big tire fire at the HTI property that spread thick smoke through parts of Lockport.
Liberty Tire Recycling sold the business to Martin's HTI in 2015, according to a Liberty official.