Residents of Richmond within a half mile of a raging industrial fire have been ordered to evacuate. A massive column of black smoke is billowing into the sky above Richmond from the location of the fire, an industrial facility at 358 NW F Street.
Media outlets have reported that the building once produced lawn mowers but has since shut down and is now used for storage. The facility is used to store plastic and other materials for recycling, according to Richmond Mayor Dave Snow.
Indiana’s state fire marshal, Steve Jones, confirmed that “The smoke is definitely toxic.” “This fire is going to burn for a few days,” Jones added. Officials report that the blaze is under control and has not spread to any adjacent homes.
“The fire was fully involved,” Richmond Fire Chief Tim Brown said. “It was fully loaded with unknown types of plastics. Filled wall to wall.” Chief Brown stated that the building’s owner had been issued an “unsafe citation” for storing plastic in the area, which is believed to have been the cause of the fire.
“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.” Brown emphasized that the facility’s size, approximately 175,000 square feet, makes it “huge.” He also suggested that the fire may have been avoided.
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“It is very frustrating for all of us,” Brown said. “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.” The area around the recycling center is a mix of residential and commercial buildings.
The Wayne County Emergency Management Agency is urging anyone within a half-mile of the fire to leave immediately. Residents in Richmond who are more than half a mile from the fire have been advised to “shelter in place,” meaning they should switch off their air conditioning and heating systems and keep their windows and doors closed.
Even the pets need to come inside. “Stay safe, stay clear of the area,” Snow said. Almost 2,000 people, according to Wayne County EMA as of 9 p.m., have left the area. Both the EPA and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management have arrived and are conducting an investigation.
As a result of the massive fire, Richmond Community Schools has decided to cancel all after-school events. There have been no reports of significant injuries. Fire crews from neighboring cities have been called in to assist, according to Mayor Snow.
“The scope of the fire is our biggest issue,” Snow said. It has been reported that one firefighter fell down a ravine while battling the blaze, injuring his ankle. He received care and is now free.
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