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Toxic smoke from burning recycling facility prompts evacuation

RICHMOND, IN (WISH) – A burning recycling facility in Richmond has caused toxic smoke, prompting the evacuation of the surrounding area. Fire officials have contained the fire but warn that it could smolder for several more days. 

The evacuation zone, which covers a half-mile radius around the site, includes an industrial building near Northwest F Street where the fire originated Tuesday afternoon. According to fire officials, the fire started in a trailer behind a building that was previously used to manufacture weed whackers.  

The trailer was loaded with unknown plastics and other materials, and the owner of the business operating in the building was cited for having too much clutter. State Fire Marshall Steve Jones has warned people about the dangers of inhaling the smoke and urged them to stay safe. “The smoke is definitely toxic. And so I know we’ve put out an evacuation, or within a half mile, I believe, is what it is. And so we don’t want the residents in the smoke. So as the wind changes, we may change the direction of the evacuations. And other than that, especially the elderly people have difficulty breathing is to stay inside.”

The Wayne County Emergency Management has not yet lifted the evacuation order, and for the time being, the City of Richmond is providing temporary shelter at Bethesda Worship Center and Oak Park Pentecostal Church.  

The fire has caused one firefighter to injure their ankle, but no other injuries have been reported. Fire officials have cautioned people to keep their windows closed and pets inside if they are not evacuating. The toxic smoke and smoldering fire serve as a reminder of the risks of uncontrolled industrial fires, and authorities urge caution and vigilance in the face of potential environmental hazards.