Three years after a massive, four-alarm chemical fire at 164 Chandler St. ravaged the Niagara Lubricant plant, causing millions of dollars in damage and a host of environmental scares for its surrounding community, the industrial oil and lubrication products company has rebuilt operations at a new location.
Owner Leon Smith III was joined by several local officials Thursday to introduce Niagara Lubricant’s new factory, a 60,000-square-foot facility in the old American Axle & Manufacturing complex at 1057 E. Delavan Ave.
It reopens three years and four days after the blaze displaced Smith and 31 employees of the 91-year-old company, which had been operating out of a temporary building near SUNY Buffalo State since the fire while awaiting money to fund the construction of the new plant.
Niagara Lubricant committed $2.2 million to its reconstruction. It will allow for the creation of nine new positions.
The company was also approved for $172,000 in property tax and sales tax savings from the Erie County Industrial Development Agency and received another loan from the National Development Council.
The fire on July 13, 2011, burned for 23 hours, feeding off the motor oil, greases and lubricating oil products that were manufactured there. Plumes of thick, black smoke bellowed into surrounding neighborhoods, causing hazardous conditions for residents that lasted several days after the blaze.
The cause was never determined. The factory was demolished after nearly $8 million in damage.
Niagara Lubricant’s temporary building at 711 Northland Ave. was the site of a minor oil fire in February, which fire crews were able to contain.
The company’s new location was retrofitted fire protection equipment in an effort to prevent a repeat disaster.