Thousands Evacuated After Emergency Plant Fire

A large fire broke out at a plastics recycling center in Richmond, Indiana on Tuesday afternoon, prompting officials to order the more than 2,000 residents in a half-mile radius to evacuate due to the toxic black smoke, NBC News reported.

The fire, which was reported around 2 pm Tuesday, originated in a tractor-trailer and quickly spread to six structures on the 175,000-square-foot facility, sending plumes of toxic, black smoke into the air.

According to Richmond Fire Chief Tim Brown, by nightfall Tuesday, the fire was contained but crews remained on site as it was still smoldering. Fighting the fire was especially difficult as the facility was filled with plastic containers and even more plastic was piled high outside, Brown said.

Indiana Fire Marshal Steve Jones told reporters that the evacuation order would remain in place overnight. He explained that the burning plastics gave off “a host of different chemicals,” including dioxins and the cancer-causing chemicals benzo(a)pyrene and polyaromatic hydrocarbons.

Calling the smoke from the blaze “toxic,” Jones urged those with difficulty breathing to remain indoors.

According to Chief Brown, the four people believed to have been at the facility when the fire started have all been accounted for.

The recycling facility is located near the border with Ohio. It is owned in part by a private citizen and in part by the city of Richmond.

Chief Brown told reporters that the owner has received several warnings about the facility and has received an “unsafe citation.”

Richmond Mayor Dave Snow assured reporters that the owner will be held accountable for Tuesday’s fire.

On Thursday, Mayor Snow tweeted that the fire had been “fully extinguished ahead of schedule.” He said officials would now focus on collecting water and air samples to determine if it is safe to lift the evacuation order.

According to ABC News, the evacuation order was still in place on Thursday.