Fire chief: Firefighters denied entrance to plant blaze

Grand Island Supervisor Nathan McMurray tweeted about the incident, saying employees "blocked them from coming in until they could put it out themselves"

By Dale Anderson
The Buffalo News

TONAWANDA, N.Y. — Fire companies that responded to reports of a blaze at the Tonawanda Coke plant on River Road at about 9 p.m. Monday were denied entrance, Grand Island Supervisor Nathan McMurray said.

McMurray, who went to the scene, reported on Twitter that a firefighter “told me they blocked them from coming in until they could put it out themselves.”

Speaking to television reporters, McMurray said the plant was “a ticking time bomb” and called for it to be shut down.

Sheridan Park volunteers and assist teams from the City of Tonawanda and Grand Island went to the scene, according to the reports. After a delay at the entrance, Sheridan Park firefighters were admitted to the plant grounds.

A Town of Tonawanda Police dispatcher said he could not immediately confirm reports that a high-lift parked at the plant entrance initially blocked firefighters' access.

The assist teams were released at about 9:30 p.m., according to reports. The police dispatcher confirmed at 10 p.m. that the situation was winding down. According to reports, the state Department of Environmental Conservation was notified and will investigate.

The reported fire comes the night before Tonawanda Coke has been ordered to return to court to address recent plant emissions.

U.S. District Judge William M. Skretny pointed to alleged violations of its 2014 sentence in directing the company to appear before him Sept. 4.

Federal probation officials contend the company's emissions are a threat to “human health and the environment” and violate the company's pledge not to commit any other federal, state or local crimes. In court papers, federal probation officials said the emissions, which occurred daily between April and July, have been documented by state and federal environmental officials monitoring the company's coke oven battery.

The company has also been granted a Oct. 10 hearing date to appeal a ruling of the state Department of Environmental Conservation, which has threatened to revoke the plant's air permits in light of 176 environmental violations levied against the Town of Tonawanda manufacturer.

Copyright 2018 The Buffalo News

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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