INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) - An important step in the process of figuring out what caused a massive warehouse fire on Saturday has started on the west side of Indianapolis.
On Tuesday, national team of ATF investigators accessed the property on Belmont Avenue for the first time. Investigators expect to get results from air-quality tests done near the scene of the Belmont warehouse fire as soon as Wednesday.
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The team consists of 20 members focused in areas of expertise including electrical engineering, chemistry and explosives.
Investigators will be limited to 20 minute periods working in the debris which contains Asbestos.
Procedural safety testing reveals the Asbestos, the Indianapolis Fire Department released late Tuesday afternoon.
Officials said that's not uncommon with old buildings. They made it clear how they feel about the threat to people in the path of the smoke and flames.
"It is possible there were some asbestos fibers caught up into the big plume and the smoke, however in terms of an exposure risk, we just don't think it was a significant one," said Jeff Larmore, Supervisor of Hazardous Materials for the Marion County Health Department.
Officials said investigators could be at a higher risk, because they're closer to debris.
Initial air quality testing showed levels were much lower than what's considered acceptable exposure in the fire area but IFD said further testing is needed to verify the public's risk. Debris found from the fire should not be handled.
Larmore recommends recommends wetting it down, then throwing it away. He says if you find large pieces you don't feel comfortable with, call the Health Department.
24-Hour News 8 spoke with local people who deal with asbestos every day, like Richard Harding. Harding is the regional manager at EMSL Analytical Inc. They test samples for contamination at their laboratory in Indianapolis.
"Of course, the older buildings are going to have more of it, but even newer buildings these days can contain products that have asbestos in it... for instance the floor tile you're standing on, or the ceiling tile above your head," said Harding. "It's added for stability, strength, and fire suppression."
Private companies routinely bring building samples to labs like this one, to see what they're dealing with.
Michael Honan is the president of one of those companies.
"In older structures, it's used in just about every material, from flooring, to wall paste, joint compound, to the pipe insulation," said Michael Honan, president of Delta Services, Inc.
Experts say the main concern, is if anyone inhales the product.
"Asbestos is really not an issue unless it becomes airborne, somebody becomes exposed to it," said Harding.
Experts say inhalation could cause certain diseases.
Health department officials recommend washing any item that may have been exposed with soap and water.
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IMPD took aerial photos of the scene to help process the site on Tuesday.
Captain Rita Burris of the Indianapolis Fire Department said the team is in an information gathering phase that began with walking the site of the fire with first responders.
Officials are waiting on air quality test results from the scene before the hands-on portion of the investigation can take place.
The Marion County Health Department is hoping sample results will be available Tuesday or Wednesday.
If the results require the use of a respirator, investigators will need to use breathing equipment, making it a slower and more labor intensive probe, officials said Tuesday afternoon, officials said.
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Firefighters were still on the scene Tuesday handling hotspots.Flames were seen breaking out in piles of debris three days later.
No further injuries have been reported.
Anyone with information, pictures or video is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 262-TIPS.
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