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Videos: Massive industrial fire with toxic fumes forces 1,000+ Indiana residents to evacuate

A U.S. Air National Guard fireman assigned to the 386th Air Expeditionary Wing responds to a simulated emergency during an exercise at Ali Al Salem Air Base, Kuwait, March 26, 2021. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kristine Legate)
April 14, 2023

Over 1,000 Indiana residents remain impacted by an evacuation order issued earlier this week due to a massive industrial fire at a plastics recycling plant that sent huge plumes of toxic smoke into the air.

According to local authorities, several fires started on Tuesday afternoon, burning different types of plastics at a site in Richmond, The Associated Press reported. Up to 2,000 people who live near the 14-acre property were ordered to evacuate.

Officials said residents who are “outside of the evacuation zone and especially downwind” should “continue to shelter in place; keeping windows and doors closed, turning off HVAC units if they draw outside air, and keeping pets inside.”

“‘Downwind’ will change from time to time as the wind direction changes,” they noted in an update issued Thursday evening.

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Richmond Mayor Dave Snow tweeted late Thursday that the fire had been “fully extinguished.” Fire Chief Tim Brown contradicted the mayor’s message Friday morning.

“When I told him it was under control, he thought that meant it was out. He and I spoke this morning, and it was just a difference of definition between him and I,” Brown told the AP.

“Under control means there’s no visible flames. However, there are still hot spots,” Brown added.

Christine Stinson, the executive director of the Wayne County Health Department, said on Wednesday that people may experience burning in their eyes and tightening in their chests if they inhale the toxic fumes.

“These are very fine particles and if they are breathed in can cause all kinds of respiratory problems,” Stinson said, as reported by The New York Times. “It could aggravate asthma. It could cause bronchitis and all kinds of things.”