Authorities say thousands of people have been ordered to evacuate due to massive inferno of toxic fumes from a recycling plant known as a ‘fire hazard’. It could burn for days

(CNN) A massive fire spewing toxic fumes from an eastern Indiana recycling plant that a mayor called a “fire hazard” has forced evacuation orders for about 2,000 people as it is expected to burn for days, city and state officials said.

Early wind monitoring results are expected Wednesday, Wayne County officials said. Materials burning at the Richmond plant included plastics, and a thick, black plume rose from the site — “definitely toxic,” Indiana State Fire Marshal Steve Jones said at a news conference.

“There’s a lot of different chemicals when a fire burns, that’s about it,” Jones said Tuesday evening, adding that he expects the fire to burn for several days.

“City officials knew operating here was a fire hazard,” Richmond Mayor Dave Snow said Wednesday. “It was a scare for us.”

An evacuation order was placed for residents within a half-mile of the fire, and Jones said officials could change that if the wind direction changed. There were residents downwind of the ejection zone — to the east and northeast encouraged Shelter in place and bring pets indoors. About 35,000 people live in the city, about 70 miles from Indianapolis.

Residents who find debris from the fire in their yards are asked to “do not disturb or touch debris.”

“It is unknown what chemicals may or may not have been in the debris,” Wayne County Emergency Management Agency officials said said.

Officials said Tuesday night that preliminary air monitoring results from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency labs “will begin to come back during the day,” adding that the evacuation orders will remain in effect indefinitely.

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Rising smog and health concerns are a reminder of the inferno and the release of hazardous materials. A freight train derailed And this year’s fire in East Palestine, Ohio. Some chemicals were recorded in high concentrations during that disaster May cause long-term risksThe researchers said.

The fire started in a semi-trailer before it spread to the facility, a fire official said.

The cause of the Indiana fire was not immediately known and likely won’t be known until the fire is extinguished. Officials said.

Firefighters Responded Tuesday to the recycling facility to find a semi-trailer engulfed in flames behind one of the plant’s buildings, Richmond Fire Chief Tim Brown said. An “unknown type of plastic” was loaded into the trailer, and the fire spread to other piles of plastic around the trailer and eventually to the building, Brown said.

Details about what caused the semi-trailer fire were not immediately available.

The evacuation order affected about 2,000 residents, the Wayne County Emergency Management Agency told CNN. Officials said they were awaiting results of air traffic control tests to help determine the duration of the evacuation orders.

“We don’t expect the evacuation order to be lifted tonight,” Snow said Tuesday. “There will be a bus if needed and shelters are ready to accept citizens from the area.”

The massive fire prompted the Richmond Community School District to cancel all classes Wednesday, as officials encouraged teachers and staff to follow shelter-in-place orders and said there would be no online classes.

“It’s a big fire, and it won’t be there tonight,” Jones said. “It’s going to burn for a while.”

Smoke rises from a fire in Richmond, Indiana on Tuesday.
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Snow said the Environmental Protection Agency and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management “assessed the potential fire hazards” at the site. Facebook Mail.

Piles of plastic blocking access roads made it difficult for firefighters to get in, Brown said. “This creates quite a challenge because there is only access to one side of the building,” he said.

“Once the fire got out of control, it blacked us out, (and) we quickly retreated and then went into defensive mode,” Brown said.

The fire spread to several buildings on the site, but crews were able to stop the fire before it could jump into residential areas, Brown said.

“It’s the biggest fire I’ve ever seen in my life,” Brown said.

One firefighter was injured in a fall and suffered an ankle injury and was later treated and released from the hospital, Brown said.

There were no other injuries. Everyone who was said to be working in the building was accounted for when crews responded to the scene, he said.

CNN’s Rachel Ramirez and Tina Burnside contributed to this report.

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