RICHMOND, Ind. — Officials provided an update Friday on the fire that began Tuesday at a recycling and resale warehouse in Richmond.
Mayor Dave Snow and Richmond Fire Department Chief Tim Brown clarified that the fire is under control but not out. The chief said he is sure of smoldering fires beneath the rubble. Snow emphasized that the public stay away from the area, which is still dangerous with unstable structures and fire flareups.
The mayor added that a meeting will be held Saturday afternoon to determine a timeline for when it may be safe to lift the evacuation order based on the results of air and water samples.
The evacuation of all citizens who live within a half mile of the fire remains in effect, as does the shelter-in-place order for the rest of Richmond’s citizens.
“I will tell you, we man the community helpline, and we’ve had people call that has said that they were walking around in the evacuation zone, and now they’re vomiting, and they have a sore throat, and their head is pounding,” said Wayne County Health Department Director Christine Stinson. “This is exactly why we set up an evacuation zone and are imploring people to stay out of that evacuation zone until that is lifted.”
Jason Sewell of the Environmental Protection Agency said with the continued smoldering Thursday, air monitor readings at the center of the evacuation zone detected two new contaminants: hydrogen cyanide and benzene. The fire department extinguished the “hotspot,” and hydrogen cyanide and benzene were not detected again the rest of the night, Sewell explained.
Sewell said 51 air-monitoring sites throughout the community — including some outside of the evacuation zone — have otherwise detected only particular matter, which although can be harmful, is to be expected with visible smoke.
On Thursday, the EPA representative said that asbestos was found in debris from the fire that has fallen onto property as far as across the Ohio line. Anyone who has debris on their property is asked not to touch it and not to mow their yard, as mowing the debris will break it down further and send it into the air.
Richmond Sanitary District Director Pat Smoker said an order to avoid contact with the river remains in place as the district continues to monitor the river and outfall. Officials await testing results. To date, no fish or wildlife kills have been found, noted Smoker. He added that with the fire under control, focus has shifted to how to isolate the site from future runoff until the site can be properly cleaned.
A shelter has been set up for those needing a temporary place to stay at Oak Park Pentecostal Church located at 1920 Chester Blvd, Richmond. The Red Cross is staffing the shelter and providing meals to displaced residents.
The City of Richmond has also established a community helpline for local residents: (765) 973-9300.
Displaced residents who need to return to their homes to obtain critical items such as medication can call (765) 973-9399 and request an escort.
The Wayne County Health Department is also providing free N95 masks and is working on providing clean-up kits for homes.
The EPA has a website dedicated to the Richmond fire and can be found here.
Matt Christy contributed to this story.