The fire, which started Tuesday afternoon at a waste treatment plant in the eastern Indiana city of Richmond, emitted noxious smoke and required the evacuation of about 2,000 people and is expected to burn for several days, officials said.
Plastics were among the items burning at the plant, and the smoke — a thick black plume rose from the site on Tuesday — is “definitely toxic,” Indiana State Fire Chief Steve Jones said at a briefing.
“There are a lot of different chemicals that plastics release when they burn and that’s a concern and we want to make sure we’re warning people to evacuate,” Jones said Tuesday night, adding that he was expecting a fire. burn for days.
According to Richmond Fire Chief Tim Brown, firefighters arrived at the site on Tuesday and found a semi-trailer behind one of the plant’s buildings engulfed in flames. According to Brown, the trailer was loaded with “an unknown type of plastic” and the fire spread to other piles of plastic around the trailer and eventually to the building.
Details about what caused the semi-trailer fire have not yet been reported.
An evacuation order has been put in place for residents within half a mile of the fire, Jones said, but authorities could change the order if the wind direction changes. Residents outside the evacuation zone, but on the leeward side of it – to the east and northeast – were subjected to encouraged to shelter in place and bring pets inside.
“We do not expect the evacuation order to be lifted tonight,” Richmond Mayor Dave Snow said Tuesday. “If necessary, the bus will remain in place, and shelters are ready to receive citizens from the area.”
The evacuation order affected about 2,000 residents, the Wayne County Emergency Management Agency told CNN.
One firefighter was injured after a fall and injured his ankle, Brown said, after which he received medical attention and was discharged from the hospital.
No other injuries were reported. Everyone who was said to have been working in the building when crews arrived at the scene was counted, Brown said.
“It’s a big enough fire that just won’t happen tonight. It will burn for a while,” Jones said.
The Environmental Protection Agency and the Indiana Department of Environmental Protection were on site “assessing any potential hazards posed by the fire,” Snow said in an interview. facebook mail.
Firefighters were having trouble accessing the facility due to a pile of plastic blocking access roads, Brown said. “This is quite a challenge because we only have access to one side of the building,” he added.
“Once the fire got out of hand, it darkened and we retreated very quickly and then went into defensive mode,” Brown said.
The flames spread to several buildings at the site, but crews were able to stop the fire from spreading before it spread to residential areas, Brown said.
“This is possibly the biggest fire I’ve seen in my entire career,” Brown said.