Massive Industrial Fire Spews Toxic Smoke Into Sky, Thousands of Residents Evacuated
An industrial fire forced some residents of Richmond, Indiana, to evacuate their homes Tuesday to avoid exposure to “definitely toxic” smoke.
Richmond Mayor Dave Snow said the fire broke out in a building that once manufactured lawn mowers but has been used to store plastics and other materials for eventual recycling, WXIN reported.
Residents within a half mile of the facility were urged to evacuate to shelters at Bethesda Ministries or Oak Park Pentecostal Church that were being manned by Red Cross and other volunteers.
Please see attached map of evacuation zone. pic.twitter.com/mnDbZtu8ox
— Dave Snow (@mayordavesnow) April 11, 2023
We are continuing operations through overnight hours. A bus will remain available for evacuation needs. I am staying in contact with our Fire Department, Police Department, and Wayne County Emergency Management Agency, and will continue to relay information as it is available.
— Dave Snow (@mayordavesnow) April 12, 2023
The fire was expected to burn “for a few days,” Indiana State Fire Marshal Steve Jones said at the scene.
Richmond Fire Chief Tim Brown said the facility’s owner had previously been cited for the unsafe storage of plastics at the location.
“He has been warned several times,” Brown said. “I don’t know when exactly that was, but we were aware of the situation we were dealing with.”
“It is very frustrating for all of us,” he added. “The battalion chief on today was very frustrated when he pulled up because we knew it wasn’t a matter of if, it was a matter of when this was going to happen.”
He described the 175,000-square-foot facility as “massive” and “filled wall to wall” with “unknown types of plastics.”
SMOKE from Richmond fire detected by area Doppler radar. Winds carry plume east along I-70 into Ohio just after 4pm Tuesday #INwx #OHwx pic.twitter.com/qu65m5kUMj
— Brian Wilkes (@BrianWilkes59wx) April 11, 2023
“The smoke is definitely toxic,” Jones, the fire marshal, told WXIN. “This fire is going to burn for a few days.”
Wayne County Emergency Management Agency told the outlet that about 2,000 people had evacuated the area by 9:00 Tuesday night.
Residents downwind of the fire but further than a half mile away from its source were urged to bring pets indoors and shelter in place.
WXIN reported no serious injuries from the fire, but Snow said fire departments from nearby communities had been called on for assistance. Representatives of the Environmental Protection Agency and Indiana Department of Environmental Management were also reportedly on the scene.
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