A tractor-trailer truck caught fire at around 2:40 p.m. on Tuesday, April 11, in Richmond, between Indianapolis and Dayton. This set alight a nearby building where plastic and recycled materials were stored and engulfed the entire abandoned Hoffco factory.
The blaze was extinguished two days after it started.
A warning from Wayne County Emergency Management came before 4:00 p.m. ordering the evacuation of people within half a mile of the fire. More than 2,000 people were still under evacuation orders until Thursday, April 13. (Related: Y-12 uranium processing facility in Tennessee catches fire, 200 employees evacuated.)
"We're now able to turn our attention to collecting air and water samples to determine when the evacuation order can be lifted," Richmond Mayor Dave Snow told CNN. His local city officials advised residents outside of the evacuation zone to stay inside, close the windows and turn off air conditioning.
The fire has reignited old frustrations over safety hazards at the infrastructure and sparked new fears among residents about the future of their health, especially since the Indiana State Fire Marshall on the scene said the "smoke is definitely toxic."
Richmond Police Chief Mike Britt asked people to stay away, calling the situation a huge public hazard. "We've had quite the problem with bystanders moving in close to the fire," he said.
Moreover, the fire has been sending snow-like debris into nearby towns.
"It was just floating through the air and we had a bunch of it landed in the yard," said Elizabeth Castellanos, a New Paris, Ohio local. "We didn't actually know what it was until it hit the ground. And one of our neighbors was like, 'That's debris from that fire,' and then we noticed more and more started floating through the air."
People were instructed to stay away from anything that's landing in residential yards, given that debris recovered 1.5 miles from the fire was found to contain asbestos, according to Jason Sewell, an on-scene coordinator for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
"Probably the worst thing you can do if you have debris in your yard would be to mow and break up that material," Sewell said, because that would raise the risk of inhaling it. "Don't disturb the debris for now. Avoid mowing until we come out with more instructions on outdoor cleanup," he added.
Snow placed the blame squarely on the Hoffco factory owner, saying the city has been involved in litigation regarding the site. The local government also owns part of the property, which Snow said was part of efforts to hold the property owner accountable.
"We just wish the property owner and the business owner would've taken this more seriously from day one," Snow said. "This person has been negligent and irresponsible, and it's led to putting a lot of people in danger."
As per local officials, the facility, formerly operating as "My Way Trading," had been the subject of a citation for unsafe buildings and unsafe grounds. Richmond's Unsafe Building Commission has been investigating the building since a few years back. Inspectors had found fire sprinklers missing and what they cited as "excessive plastic materials" considered to be a fire hazard back in 2019 and in 2020, a judge affirmed a cleanup order by the commission against Cornerstone Trading Group.
Reports said clutter and rubbish in the area posed challenges for first responders at the recent fire. "We have six buildings in a 14-acre complex that have been involved in fire. All those buildings were full of plastic from floor to ceiling and wall to wall," Richmond Fire Chief Tim Brown told NewsNation's Markie Martin on "Morning in America."
Chemicals.news has more news related to harmful chemicals emitted to air, water and land in disasters such as fires.
Watch the video below that talks about the massive fire in the Richmond plastic factory.
This video is from the Evolutionary Energy Arts channel on Brighteon.com.