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Large industrial fire prompts evacuation orders in Indiana

RICHMOND, Ind. (WXIN) — Evacuation orders have been issued for those living near a roaring industrial fire in Indiana that sent massive clouds of black smoke into the sky Tuesday.

The fire broke out at an industrial site in Richmond, near the Ohio border, that lately had been used to store plastics and other materials for recycling or resale, Mayor Dave Snow said.

“They were under a city order to clean up and remediate that site,” Snow told The Associated Press. “We knew that was a fire hazard the way they were storing materials.”

Residents within a half mile of the fire were asked to evacuate by the Wayne County Emergency Management Agency. Those further than a half mile from the fire were encouraged to shelter in place.

As of 9 p.m., Wayne County EMA said that over 2,000 people have evacuated the area.

The fire is expected to burn for a few days, said Steve Jones, the Indiana State Fire Marshall on the scene.

“The smoke is definitely toxic,” he added.

When crews arrived, the fire “was fully involved,” according to Richmond Fire Chief Tim Brown. “It was fully loaded with unknown types of plastics, filled wall to wall.”

The fire is contained, according to officials, and did not jump to residential areas nearby. Drone video from the scene shows black smoke billowing high into the sky, casting an expansive shadow over nearby neighborhoods. The cloud was so large it was detected by local radar systems.

According to Chief Brown, the owner of the building where the fire started had previously received an “unsafe citation” about stacking plastic in the area.

“He has been warned several times,” Brown said. “The battalion chief on today was very frustrated when he pulled up because we knew it wasn’t a matter of if, it was a matter of when this was going to happen.”

Brown added that the facility is “massive” and has an area of about 175,000 square feet. It’s not yet clear what caused the fire.

A mix of homes and businesses are located near the recycling facility.

The Environmental Protection Agency and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management are on the scene to assess air quality and other environmental impacts.

No serious injuries have been reported but one firefighter is said to have injured his ankle after falling down a ravine while combating the fire. He has been treated and released.

At this time, there is no timeline for how long it will take to put out the massive fire.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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