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Lockport tire recycling fire contained but not extinguished

LOCKPORT- Hundreds of volunteer firefighters battled through the night to contain a blaze at a tire recycling business.

Here is what is known Thursday morning:

* The fire is contained at High Tread International but not extinguished.

* No injuries were reported.

* Dozens of nearby residents stayed overnight at a shelter in North Park Middle School on Passaic Avenue.

At least four structures burned, all on property owned by High Tread International, including the Upson Co., which were used for storage of tires and rubber.

More than 200 firefighters from as many as 14 fire companies were called to assist Lockport firefighters, according to Niagara County Fire Coordinator Jonathan F. Schultz. The Niagara County Sheriff's Office said the initial alarm was sounded at 6:36 p.m.

“The status is fire is contained,” Lockport Fire Chief Patrick Brady said early Thursday. “We're not calling it under control at this time.”

He said fighting the blaze “taxed the water system in the City of Lockport to the max.” Water was pumped from the nearby Erie Canal, and tankers from Niagara and Orleans County were also employed.

Brady said the New York State Office of Fire Prevention and Control would help to investigate the cause of the blaze.

No houses caught fire. A dwelling on Stevens Street next to the warehouse was in danger, but firefighters quickly wetted it down.

Firefighters battled heat and fatigue throughout the night.

The fire erupted in an industrial neighborhood in the west end of Lockport. Firefighters pumped water from the Erie Canal to battle the blaze and bystanders were recruited to move fire hoses to better access the fire.

The old mill once housed the Upson Co., a wallboard manufacturer.

Wind blew the smoke – backlit by the crimson of the fire – to the northeast. Soot from the blaze rained on surrounding areas. The sound of a building collapsing could be heard by hundreds gathered nearby.

Police asked residents of the Stevens Street area north of the blaze to evacuate their homes. Residents were instructed to go to the Salvation Army building at Cottage and Walnut streets Anna Merritt School and North Park Middle School. Lockport fire officials said early Thursday residents would likely not be allowed to return to their homes Thursday.

Alysa Hillman of Prospect Street was packing her van with belongings “just in case,” she said.

“No, I'm not going to leave unless they tell me to. I'm stressed – I'm at a loss for words.”

Katherine Martin, a member of the Rapids Fire Company, who was directing foot traffic, cautioned people to “stay back” from the fire hose running from the Erie Canal to the fire scene.

One woman who said she works at the Hillside Children's Center near the fire scene said, “We have an investment in our building and take a lot of pride in it, so obviously I'm concerned. Fortunately there's no staff in there.”

Lockport residents are only too familiar with tire fires at the site.

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