Another day, another issue at Tonawanda Coke.
Local fire departments responded to a large fire on the property of the Tonawanda Coke plant on River Road about 9 p.m. Monday but were initially were denied entrance.
Sheridan Park Fire Chief James Chatham told the Buffalo News this morning:
Chatham said that his crew responded to multiple calls about a large fire at Tonawanda Coke, but when they arrived, “they pulled a high-lift in front of my vehicle.”
“I was stunned,” Chatham said. “I really didn’t fully understand what he was doing. It made no sense to me. I’ve never experienced anything like that. When we questioned the operator of the high-lift, he said he was just doing his job.”
Chatham was later granted access to the property of the 101-year-old River Road coke producer. A Tonawanda Coke statement said the company was executing “standard operating procedures.”
“We were eventually granted access,” Chatham said. “The process that they explained to us was normal in their eyes, but abnormal to us and to the general public who called it in.”
Tonawanda Coke issued a statement early Tuesday morning:
“The fire department, while appreciated, responded to inaccurate calls of a structure fire hampering personnel from their procedures and prevented additional management crews from gaining access to the facility to assess the situation,” the statement read.
The statement also said that a “A Fire Chiefs SUV and Town of Tonawanda Inspector were escorted onto the property” to observe Tonawanda Coke personnel “execute their standard operating procedures and then exited the facility as operations returned to normal.”
Tonawanda Coke’s statement said that there had been a power outage at the plant and that “a preliminary investigation by Tonawanda Coke electricians and National Grid personnel indicates that a bird strike may have shorted the power line at TCC’s electric substation on the Niagara River.”
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz ordered the Erie County Department of Emergency Services to look into Monday night’s fire.
I've ordered @ErieCountyESU to perform an inquiry into what occurred last night at #TonawandaCoke. It appears no request for assistance was made by local fire/PD last night, hence why no @ErieCountyNY presence. Something happened and we will try to determine what it was.
— Mark Poloncarz (@markpoloncarz) September 4, 2018
This isn’t the first time Tonawanda Coke blocked access to first responders. They did the same thing after an explosion at the plant rocked local neighborhoods in January of 2014. #stopthestacks https://t.co/lZ8eHaVcV2 https://t.co/i7uFjyulqA
— Brian Higgins (@RepBrianHiggins) September 4, 2018
— Nate McMurray for Congress (@Nate_McMurray) September 4, 2018
The reported fire comes the night before Tonawanda Coke has been ordered to return to court to address recent plant emissions.