Wednesday's massive fire was not the first at the former Bethlehem Steel plant property in Lackawanna, said Fred K. Heinle, director of development for Lackawanna.
A mulch fire was reported in October at another building in a mulch-grinding facility operated by Zoladz Construction of Alden. The facility is located on the west side of Hamburg Turnpike, said Heinle.
The fire on October 13 involved a sizable pile of mulch. It was the third fire reported at the mulch plant in two years, Lackawanna officials said. Another fire occurred on Feb. 29.
The fires was addressed by First Ward Councilman Abdulsalam K. Noman during a recent City Council meeting when he asked lawmakers to take action against the owners of the facility.
Operations at the mulch plant are monitored by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to ensure hazardous materials do not compromise the mulching process, noted Heinle. The facility grinds or chip wood products for use as fuel in power plants, he said.
"All we're trying to do is monitor the safety of the mulching operations," said Heinle. "The DEC requires you to continuously turn the mulch over to release gases and heat buildup."
The business has been cited for violations of the New York State fire code and the Lackawanna Municipal Code.
On Wednesday, the four-story storage facility was burning out of control at the former steel plant site on Route 5 in one of the last standing buildings from the original steel making operations. That facility, owned by Great Lakes Industrial Development, is called Steel Works Industrial Park. It is located on the east side of Hamburg Turnpike and is 65 percent occupied.