RICHMOND, Ind. – A month after a massive warehouse fire broke out in Richmond, the city has a considerable amount of work to do.
On the afternoon of April 11, a large plume of black smoke was visible for miles after the fire erupted at the former My Way Trading warehouse on NW F Street. It burned for several days and led to an evacuation order. The order was later lifted on April 16.
In an update provided Thursday, Richmond Mayor Dave Snow said the city has “learned a lot” over the last month. He also outlined the next steps in the cleanup effort.
The city has asked the Environmental Protection Agency to undertake an “environmental investigation” and “immediate removal action of materials” at the site. It’s also arranged a site access agreement allowing mitigation efforts to start and secured an environmental consultant to monitor the process.
The Richmond Fire Department, Richmond Police Department and Richmond Street Department will work with the EPA to move heavy equipment to the site to help with “assessment and remediation activities.”
There are several steps involved in the process:
- Identification of materials and debris on the site, with EPA set to start sampling on May 15
- Development of a plan for proper removal and disposal of materials and debris from the site
- Actual removal and disposal of materials and debris
- Follow-up environmental testing
Snow acknowledged the cleanup effort would be a lengthy one.
“The sooner we get started the sooner we’ll get it finished. We’re going to keep pushing forward every day until we can put this behind us and look ahead,” he said in a statement.
According to the EPA, crews collected debris from 330 private and public properties in Indiana and neighboring Ohio. The agency inspected another 512 locations for debris and found no evidence of presumed asbestos-containing material, according to an update posted last week.
We spoke with a few Richmond residents on Thursday who are still reliving the scary moments of this massive fire in their hometown.
“It’s unbelievable,” said Daphine Peace. “I still can’t believe it happened. I was at home. I was sitting on my front porch, and I saw a bunch of black smoke going above my house.”
For people who like Peace who live and work in the area, the impact of the April 11 fire was even greater.
“It was scary not knowing if we were going to be a part of having to evacuate or how far it was going to go,” Peace said.
“I didn’t know if we would all be out of jobs or what was going to happen,” said Kimberly Laughlin, the manager at the Dollar General just a block away from where the fire started. “I know two of my employees got evacuated from their homes, so my first thought went to them. I didn’t know where they were going to sleep or where their families were going to go, so I was worried about that.”
A month later, city leaders still don’t know what started the fire. That investigation is ongoing. But with clean-up efforts underway, there is still a lot to do.
“If you are telling me today marks a month, it is hard to believe that there is all of that still left out there,” Laughlin said. “I don’t even know at what point they will have this all cleaned up and resolved and so forth.”
Still, residents are just thankful to see some progress after a very difficult month.
“It was a struggle, but we all made it through, and coming together as a community really helped out,” Peace said.
The city’s community help line remains active. Anyone with questions or in need of assistance can call (765) 973-9300.