A massive fire from an Indiana recycling plant with “definitely toxic” smoke is expected to burn for days, forcing the evacuation of 2,000 people within a half-mile radius. People and pets downwind are told to stay indoors.
2,000 people evacuated amid toxic fire at Indiana recycling plant
Officials say a “large industrial fire” broke out at a recycling plant in Wayne County, Indiana, near the Indiana-Ohio border, that processes recyclables, including plastics, ABC News reported.
Indiana State Fire Marshal Steve Jones said during a news briefing that the thick, black column of smoke that was rising from the Richmond plant was “definitely toxic,” CNN reported.
The initial cause of the fire was not immediately known, and officials say it will likely not be known until after the fire has been extinguished.
Officials from US Environmental Protection Agency labs said preliminary air monitoring results “should begin to return by daybreak” on Wednesday.
Officials issue precautions for 35,000 people
The half-mile evacuation zone impacts approximately 2,011 residents, a representative from the Wayne County Emergency Management office said, all of whom have been ordered to evacuate.
However, those downwind from the fire are also in danger. Officials say anyone who can see the large smoke plume from the fire should shelter in place.
Fire Marshal Steve Jones said that residents downwind from the evacuation zone – to the east and northeast – were being urged to bring pets indoors and shelter in place. About 35,000 people could potentially be affected.
Officials also warned people who find any remnants from the fire in their yard to “not disturb or touch the debris.”
“It is unknown what chemicals may or may not be in the debris,” officials from the Wayne County Emergency Management Agency said.
Residents from 5 to 35 miles away reported picking up the odor from the fire in the air, which one resident described as “not a good smell” and another described as having a stench like burning tires.
Officials knew the plant was a major risk to the community
Richmond Mayor Dave Snow said that city officials “were aware that what was operating here was a fire hazard.”
“This was a fear for us,” Snow added, calling the incident a “worst-case scenario.”