An Emergency Medical Response Plan for the Richmond Plastics Recycling Facility, a First Fire Since February 22, 2019, Concluding an Emergency Emergency Plan
Days after a blaze at an eastern Indiana plastics recycling plant forced evacuation orders for hundreds, officials are slated to meet Saturday to discuss when it will be safe for them to return to their homes as the fire fizzles out.
The fire at the recycling facility was largely under control by Thursday. People within a half-mile of the plant – about 2,000 of Richmond’s 35,000 residents – have been under evacuation orders since the fire’s first night.
The results of the air and water samples that will be reviewed on Saturday will help guide the duration of the order, according to the mayor.
Emergency officials said small fires inside the facility produce smoke, soot or the smell of burnt plastic, as they smolder for days.
The state fire marshal said on Tuesday that the smoke produced from the fire was toxic and forced the cancellation of classes at public schools.
“I started smelling it inside the apartment, with all the door and windows closed,” Day, who went to stay with his mother in a nearby town, told WRTV. It was burning so bad it looked as though it was in the nose.
The US Environmental Protection Agency said Friday that there were chemicals detected at the fire zone’s center. The agency said that they were not spotted outside the zone.
It’s important for residents to not touch the debris on their property or for a trained professional to remove all the materials suspected to be from the fire.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation and likely won’t be known for weeks, officials said. But local leaders have shared concerns since at least 2019 that the facility had hazards and building code violations, records show.
Since the fire, the EPA has said that any resident who may have fire debris in their yard should not mow their lawns until officials can advise about how to clean it up.
A primary health concern to residents is particulate matter, which could cause respiratory problems if inhaled, said Christine Stinson, who heads the Wayne County Health Department.
N95 masks – the type recommended to protect against Covid-19 – could shield the particles, but people should leave the area if they see or smell smoke or experience symptoms, Stinson said.
A Post by Snow: Richmond City Firefighters, Water Quality Testing, and Drones Will Be Put Towards the Final Stage of the Evacuation Plan
An announcement was initially expected Saturday on when evacuation orders could be lifted, but Richmond city officials later said that no determination had been made. “We have another meeting in the morning to determine the best time to lift the evacuation order,” Mayor Dave Snow said Saturday evening.
Emergency officials asked those who had left the fire to still shelter in place if they felt like they were in danger.
According to the post, schools with debris will be first cleared, and contractors will use drones to search rooftops for more debris.
“After school grounds are cleared, these contractors will begin removing debris from residential properties, parks and/or public areas, and businesses,” city officials say in the post.
As for water quality, testing downstream of the fire site is underway and officials say they have “not found anything of immediate alarm, including any sign of fish kills.”
There was ash and plastic debris but weir booms were installed to capture it. Wayne County emergency officials said that Indiana American Water has been monitoring their drinking water and has reported no unusual readings.