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‘Definitely toxic’: Indiana officials ask residents to continue honoring evacuation order following fire


By Jacqueline White

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    RICHMOND, Indiana (WRTV) — Officials in Wayne County are continuing to order anyone within half of a mile from a large industrial fire in Richmond to evacuate.

Firefighters began battling the flames at a warehouse at 358 NW F Street in Richmond around 2:40 p.m. Tuesday.

The battle successfully continued throughout the night and into the morning Wednesday as fire crews worked to contain the fire to the area it began in.

Residents just outside the half mile radius are being asked to shelter in place as precaution because officials are not clear on what chemicals are in the air.

In a Wednesday morning update, the Wayne County Health Department and other city and state officials are continuing to urge residents to avoid the evacuation area as the smoke contains potentially cancer causing toxins.

In addition to sheltering in place, people are asked to shut off power, heat and AC.

Bethesda Ministries, located at 2200 Peacock Rd, opened their doors as a temporary shelter for those displaced in the evacuation zone.

Oak Park Pentecoastal Church located at 920 Chester Blvd will also be open as shelter with volunteers and workers from the American Red Cross.

The city is offering bus rides to transport residents. If you are in need of a ride call 765-983-7583 or 765-973-9399.

The Property:

According to Cain, the large plant, Hoffco, manufactures a myriad of plastic products.

After numerous citations and warnings from the city, the owner of the property is now facing further repercussions, according to Mayor Dave Snow.

As part of the continued litigation between the city and the property owner, the city actually owned part of the property that was burned.

“This business owner had previously been cited by our Unsafe Building Commission and given an order to clean up the property that order was ignored,” Snow said. “This was a fear for us and why we’ve taken so many steps to prevent this from happening. That business owner is fully responsible for all of this. We have the unsafe building order and the recorded court documents and everything that’s ensued.”

Bethesda Ministries, located at 2200 Peacock Rd, have opened their doors as a temporary shelter for those displaced in the evacuation zone.

The Fire, Smoke and Debris:

People living in Richmond have shared videos and images showing the smoke and reporting that it can be seen from ‘miles away’

The National Weather Service shared the image below showing the smoke being visible on their radar and satellite images.

Mayor Snow tells WRTV the fire started in a trailer and spread quickly to the site.

As of Wednesday morning, only one injury had been reported. A firefighter at the scene suffered a minor injury and was treated and released.

The Fire Department received multiple regards Wednesday morning from state officials for their work in stopping the fire from spreading into residential areas.

Indiana State Fire Marshall Steve Jones was among those commending the Richmond FD.

“This has been a challenging fire just because it’s plastics,” Jones said. “They did a great job is this fire because of the nature of the contents of the building was a fast growing fire. And so they got in surrounded it and cut it off from the residential neighborhood, which just speaks volumes of the work that they did yesterday is getting their troops in being able to deliver the water where it needed to cut this fire off because it was going to be a total loss. But it could have grown further than just these buildings here. And so just kudos to the fire department and their efforts and their tactical decisions to cut this fire off.”

The Environmental Protection Agency has created a website here to help spread information to residents in the area.

Debris was found up to 10 miles from the location of the fire.

Debris from the fire has fell roughly 10 miles way in New Paris, Ohio.

Officials from the EPA are warning people to not touch or mow over debris due to the danger of pushing the toxins into the air.

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