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Indiana recycling plant fire being monitored for asbestos, expected to burn for several more days

A massive fire that broke out Tuesday afternoon at a plastics recycling plant in eastern Indiana is expected to burn for several more days, as officials monitor the air around the clock for “asbestos-containing materials” and other toxic debris, the EPA said Wednesday. 

About 2,000 people who live within a 0.5-mile radius of the scene remained under evacuation orders Wednesday evening. 

Residents of Richmond, Indiana, who live outside the evacuation zone are advised to take safety measures, including closing windows, turning-off air conditioning, and keeping pets inside. 

WARM WEATHER BRINGS BACK RISKS OF WILDFIRE, POSSIBLE RECORD HIGHS FOR MILLIONS

  • INDIANA FIRE Image 1 of 2

    This photo provided by Julie Roe shows smoke rising from a former factory site in Richmond, Ind., Tuesday, April 11, 2023.  (Julie Roe via AP)

  • Indiana fire Image 2 of 2

    An evacuation order affecting more than roughly 2,000 people was expected to remain in place through Wednesday, April 12, around the large industrial fire in Richmond, near the Ohio border. (Julie Roe via AP)

The fire broke out at two warehouses that contain large amounts of plastic recyclables for reselling. 

Fire Chief Tim Brown said Wednesday that the plant had previously been issued a citation on the basis of “unsafe building and unsafe grounds,” due to floor to ceiling plastics that were inside the buildings. 

Officials from the EPA are conducting “24-hour air monitoring” to check for asbestos and other toxic debris, though sample results aren’t expected back for the next days or weeks. 

“Asbestos-containing materials may be present due to the age of the building,” the EPA said Wednesday. 

  • Indiana fire Image 1 of 3

    Workers knock down a section of site of an industrial fire the area as smoke billows from the site in Richmond, Ind., Wednesday, April 12, 2023.  (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

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    Firefighters pour water on an industrial fire in Richmond, Indiana. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

  • Smoke billows into the air from a recycling plant fire in Richmond Indiana Image 3 of 3

    (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

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The cause of the fire is unclear. The Indiana State Fire Marshal’s Office said that it will be “days” before investigators can approach the scene. 

The scenes of black smoke billowing over neighborhoods were eerily similar to a train derailment earlier this year in East Palestine, Ohio, when several rail cars carrying hazardous materials went off the tracks. 

Residents there were evacuated ahead of a controlled burn by officials.

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