City Officials Fear Crumbling Smokestack

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HAZLETON --According to the Hazleton Police Chief, a project to knock down a crumbling smoke stack in Hazleton, is scheduled to start Monday.

A strip mall in near the stack was evacuated Friday, and people nearby were advised to leave their homes, all because city officials believed that if some the 130-foot-high stack were to fall, it could hit several homes and businesses.

The place is near Kiefer Avenue in Hazleton.

Bricks are missing from the top and near the bottom a crack has developed. Inspectors say if it falls, it could throw bricks nearly 300 feet. The factory it's attached to has been shut down for years.

Originally they put insulation on wire, then it went through some other phases. It was a ribbon factory for a while. They extracted silver from photography film for a while," said Jim Donovan of Multi Plastics Extrusions.

Donovan's factory in the heights section of Hazleton is out of the danger zone but he spends some time clearing bricks from the railroad tracks, tracks his company depends on. His firm makes plastics.

"I was always concerned about the people who live so close here but my concern is my business. We put a lot of pounds out of this plant and we're dependent on this railroad."

City police went door to door in the neighborhood telling people about the potential danger. Most are staying in their houses, including Jeannie Mope, a city councilwoman.

"Evidently with the rain storms, it became a worry for some of the people around in the area."

Mope says the city has known about the problem for years but it's having difficulty getting the owner from New Jersey to take down the stack.

"We've watched it deteriorate. I know there have been numerous complaints, but we've had difficulty because of out of state property owners."

It's unclear why city officials decided to close the business down and only asked for voluntary evacuation for homes in the danger zones.

City officials said they had been in touch with the smokestack's owner, and  they expect to get a large enough crane to start the demolition process scheduled for Monday.