An extensive industrial fire in eastern Indiana has led to the evacuation of nearby inhabitants, and officials indicate the inferno may continue for several days. The fire erupted at a former factory in Richmond, a city with around 35,000 residents located 70 miles east of Indianapolis. Richmond is situated on the border between Indiana and Ohio.
On Tuesday, authorities mandated the evacuation of individuals within half a mile of the location and instructed others in close proximity to seek shelter. The response involved local, state, and federal entities, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Richmond Mayor Dave Snow reported that the fire took place at the site of a previous plastics recycling and retail business that was ordered to address the city officials’ concerns about an unsafe property.
The news report states EPA officials are uncertain health effects on those affected by the fire. The EPA monitored air quality beyond the half-mile evacuation zone and is currently checking for dangerous particles and toxic substances. During a Wednesday morning press conference, EPA representative Jason Sewell stated that agency personnel was testing for volatile organic compounds that can be emitted when plastic combusts.
“Fortunately, the toxic compounds we’re searching for were not detected,” he remarked.
Firefighters douse water on a Richmond industrial fire on Wednesday.
Sewell emphasized that inhaling any smoke is hazardous.
Officials previously mentioned that they were uncertain about the fire’s composition, and they highlighted potential health issues relating to respiration, such as difficulty breathing, skin irritation, and burning or irritated eyes. They cautioned individuals with pre-existing respiratory conditions to exercise particular care.
Citizens were also advised to avoid contact with any debris from the factory they might encounter. Sewell explained that some debris might contain asbestos due to the building’s age, which can lead to lung cancer and other diseases.
Asbestos is a group of naturally occurring minerals that were widely used in construction and manufacturing for their insulating and fire-retardant properties. However, when asbestos fibers are inhaled or ingested, they can cause serious health problems, including mesothelioma.
Mesothelioma is a rare and aggressive cancer that develops in the thin layer of tissue that covers many of the internal organs (known as the mesothelium). It is caused almost exclusively by exposure to asbestos, and it can take several decades for symptoms to develop after exposure. The most common form of mesothelioma is pleural mesothelioma, which affects the lining of the lungs.
Unfortunately, there is currently no cure for mesothelioma, but treatment options such as surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy can help manage symptoms and improve quality of life. The best way to prevent mesothelioma is to avoid exposure to asbestos.
Additionally, agencies announced their efforts to examine the local water supply and minimize fire-related runoff water from entering city storm drains and surface water.
Mayor Snow blames a “negligent business owner” for the fire. Mayor Snow revealed that the city’s Unsafe Building Commission had previously directed the property owner to address the situation, but the owner neglected the order.
A court later confirmed the order, and the city pursued other measures to persuade the building’s owner to clean up the property. A small portion of property is owned by the city, according to Mayor Snow.
Utility employees work near a Richmond industrial fire on Wednesday.
“We knew that the operations here presented a fire risk, which is why we took so many precautions to prevent this from happening,” the mayor stated.
Snow identified the former business at the site as My Way Trading, which gathered plastics and other materials for recycling and resale.
“Everything that has transpired here — the fire, the damages, the risks faced by our first responders and the citizens — is the responsibility of that negligent business owner,” Snow declared.
Evacuation order persists for some residents, but the duration is uncertain
As of Wednesday morning, the evacuation order implemented by the Wayne County Emergency Management Agency on the previous day was still in effect.
Authorities also urged individuals downwind from the fire to stay indoors, deactivate their HVAC systems, close windows and doors, and bring pets inside.
“I glanced out my window and saw the smoke rolling in, and it looked like a storm was forming,” Richmond resident Alicia Rhoades informed WRTV.
The timeline for residents to safely return to the evacuated area remained uncertain as the fire continued to burn and officials awaited additional air quality test results.
Richmond Community Schools closed on Wednesday, and garbage collection was halted after officials shut down a nearby landfill to protect workers from smoke exposure. Firefighters successfully contain the fire, preventing its spread to residential areas.
State Fire Marshal Steve Jones described the fire as “fast-growing” due to the plastics present at the site and commended the firefighters for effectively containing the blaze.
“They did an outstanding job,” Jones said. “They entered, encircled it, and prevented it from reaching the residential neighborhood.”
One firefighter received treatment for a minor injury on Tuesday.
On Wednesday morning, Richmond Fire Chief Tim Brown estimated that the fire had engulfed 13.5 acres of the 14-acre property, including both indoor and outdoor spaces.
“The entire complex is either burning or has burned,” he stated, noting that plastic was “scattered everywhere.”
Brown announced that firefighters would use excavators to reach areas of the site still aflame.
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If you or a loved one suffered serious harm due to toxin exposure caused by this fire, contact our toxic exposure lawsuit lawyers today for a free case review. You or your family member could receive significant monetary compensation for your injuries or for the loss of a loved one.
Time is limited, so don’t hesitate to get in touch with our firm. Call Parker Waichman LLP at 1-800-YOUR-LAWYER (1-800-968-7529) to understand your rights and options. If qualified, our toxic exposure lawsuit attorneys will work hard to obtain the financial compensation you or your loved one deserves.
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