Treasured Collectibles Lost in Bethlehem Steel Fire


We’ve all seen, heard about and smelled the recent devastating fire at the former Bethlehem Steel  Corporation buildings. Hundreds of firefighters battled the multiple-alarm blaze for days, the neighbors who lived near the Lackawana complex have been exposed to fumes and residue from the blaze and school children were uprooted from their schools as a result. Understandably

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But for Dr. Robert Hornberger, the Buffalo optometrist who operates Dr. Bob’s Storage in one of the former Bethlehem Steel Corp. buildings, the destruction caused by last week’s fire was even more devastating for his clients. Just in Dr. Bob’s portion of the complex, 90 vehicles — including cars, boats and RVs — were lost with their collective damaging running north of $2 million, according to early estimates. Among other vehicles, destroyed were classic Corvettes, vintage Mustang convertibles, RVs and one motor home valued at $800,000.

Dr. Bob’s Storage started in 1999, mainly from Hornberger looking for a place to store his own RV. Through friends and word-of-mouth, his side business grew and grew. According to Dr. Bob, who lost a four-person jet ski, a snowmobile, some trailers and other equipment, this was the perfect location for his business. And although his clients had to provide their own insurance coverage for their vehicles, he still feels heartbroken for his clients, especially with the extensive devastation to the building and its contents.

The fire means Hornberger is ending his Dr. Bob’s Storage business, although he still maintains his practices in Buffalo and Cheektowaga, ans well as Dr. Bob’s Detail Shop on California Drive in Orchard Park.

Meanwhile, with some of the embers still smoldering, the demolition is continuing and the overall damage total is still being calculated. The cause is still being investigated and one firefighter suffered a broken ankle.

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Great Lakes Industrial Development, which bought the buildings in late 2010, probably lost one-third of its space. The buildings were more than 70 percent leased. Their clients, and others who rented space in the complex, are also trying to determine how much was lost and the dollar value attributed to the fire damage. Besides the buildings, Great Lakes lost an undetermined number pieces of equipment including trucks and snow plows.

But to some like Dr. Bob’s clients, the losses are devastating and sentimental, and go beyond the monetary value.

Source: Buffalo Business First, Nov 14, 2016