RICHMOND, INDIANA. — Air monitoring is underway at the site of a toxic recycling plant fire in Richmond, Indiana.
Burning recycling materials like plastic causing a massive plume over the city. A plume so large it was seen from space by a NOAA satellite.
As of Wednesday afternoon, at least two thousand people have been evacuated in a half-mile radius of the fire.
Flames broke out Tuesday and local fire officials expect it could burn for days. While the potentially hazardous smoke lingers over nearby homes and businesses, authorities are warning residents to bring in their pets, stay indoors and to not touch any debris that falls into their yard.
"These are very fine particles,” said Christine Stinson, Executive Director of the Wayne County Health Department. “If they're breathed, then can cause all kinds of respiratory problems, burning of the eyes, tightening of the chest, it could aggravate asthma, cause bronchitis and all kinds of things."
City leaders are placing the blame squarely on the recycling plant’s owner.
"This business owner had previously been cited by our unsafe building commission and given an order to clean up the property, that order was ignored," said Richmond Mayor Dave Snow.
The mayor says they took the unsafe building order to court, where it was upheld. City leaders also say that there have been several attempts to force the plant’s owner to clean up the property.
"This person has been negligent and irresponsible and it's put a lot of people in danger today," said Mayor Snow.
The Wayne County Health Department says N-95 masks may filter out some of the airborne particles, but they are urging residents that live near the plant to stay out of the half-mile radius evacuation zone and to follow all official instructions.
The Richmond Community School District has canceled all classes Wednesday and Thursday, April 13, telling staff and faculty to follow the shelter-in-place order issued by the state.