Evacuation order lifted after Ind. chemical fire

Sep 15, 2012, 9:15 PM

MISHAWAKA, Ind. (AP) – Hundreds of northern Indiana residents returned home Saturday after spending the night at shelters, hotels or with relatives after a chemical fire at a vacant plant that’s in the midst of a federally supervised cleanup ousted them from their homes.

Mishawaka Battalion Chief Mike Croy said the all-clear was given about 7 a.m. Saturday after air monitoring showed it was safe for residents to return home within a one-mile radius of the old Baycote factory.

The fire inside a small area of the factory in Mishawaka released a chemical vapor cloud of unknown substances over the city’s south side, prompting officials to order the precautionary evacuation, Croy said.

“They really weren’t sure what the chemical was and what effects it might have on people,” he said.

Mishawaka is about 10 miles east of South Bend.

Jack Walker, who lives about a block from the idle plant, said he didn’t hesitate to load his two dogs into his car late Friday night when officials issued an evacuation order after the fire produced a strange-smelling cloud.

“I was out in my front yard and it smelled funny _ it was a smell like I’d never smelled before,” he said Saturday afternoon, hours after he returned home. “It was a really weird smell.”

Walker, who suffers from asthma, said the aroma wafting from the plant didn’t irritate his lungs or his eyes but worried him nonetheless. He drove outside the evacuation area to his mother’s home, where he spent the night.

Croy said it isn’t clear how many people were actually evacuated, but he believes about 200 people live within the one-mile evacuation zone around the factory, an area that is a mix of industries and homes.

The Baycote complex was once an electroplating and metal finishing business, but it’s been vacant since 2008. The site is in the midst of a cleanup by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that began this spring.

EPA on-scene coordinator Paul Atkociunas said more than 50,000 gallons of liquid and solid chemicals were stored there when the cleanup started but that the bulk of the material has already been removed.

He said a cleanup crew working for the EPA put some solid “sludge-like” chemicals into a plastic-lined cardboard box Friday, and those chemicals self-combusted and caught fire about 7:15 p.m. _ hours after the workers had left the building.

Atkociunas said the white cloud produced by the fire may have contained hydrogen cyanide, hydrogen sulfide and sulfur dioxide based on the chemicals that burned. He said the fire was confined to the storage container that caught fire.

He called it an “unfortunate accident” but praised local fire officials for acting quickly and alerting him and other EPA officials once the blaze was spotted.

Atkociunas said the EPA will analyze what caused the fire and reassess its approach to removing the remaining chemicals from the site.

“We’re going to be taking a look back at our procedures to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” he said.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

United States News

A high altitude balloon floats over Billings, Mont., on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2023. The huge, high-alt...
Associated Press

Chinese balloon soars across US; Blinken scraps Beijing trip

A Chinese balloon sailing across the U.S. drew severe Pentagon accusations and sent excited or alarmed Americans outside with binoculars.
2 days ago
Protesters march Saturday, Jan. 28, 2023, in Memphis, Tenn., over the death of Tyre Nichols, who di...
Associated Press

6th officer fired after beating death of Tyre Nichols

A sixth Memphis officer was fired Friday after an internal police investigation showed he violated multiple department policies in the violent arrest of Tyre Nichols.
2 days ago
(Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)...
Associated Press

Denver Court throws out Wyoming doctor’s pill convictions

A federal appeals court on Friday threw out the convictions of a doctor accused of overprescribing powerful pain medication and ordered a new trial for him.
2 days ago
A hiring sign is displayed at a restaurant in Rolling Meadows, Ill., Monday, Jan. 30, 2023. America...
Associated Press

A surprising burst of US hiring in January: 517,000 jobs

WASHINGTON (AP) — For nearly a year, the Federal Reserve has been on a mission to cool down the job market to help curb the nation’s worst inflation bout in four decades. The job market hasn’t been cooperating. Consider what happened in January: The government said Friday that employers added a sizzling 517,000 jobs last […]
2 days ago
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)...
Associated Press

$580M headed to 15 Native American tribes to fulfill water rights

Fifteen Native American tribes will get a total of $580 million to fund settlements that ensure access to water that's legally theirs.
3 days ago
(Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)...
Associated Press

Biden’s handwritten notes part of classified documents probe

Some of President Joe Biden's handwritten notes are now a part of a special counsel’s investigation into the handling of classified documents.
3 days ago

Sponsored Articles

(Pexels Photo)...

Sports gambling can be fun for adults, but it’s a dangerous game for children

While adults may find that sports gambling is a way to enhance the experience with more than just fandom on the line, it can be a dangerous proposition if children get involved in the activity.
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet edges out cable for everyday use

In a world where technology drives so much of our daily lives, a lack of high-speed internet can be a major issue.
(Photo via MLB's Arizona Fall League / Twitter)...
Arizona Fall League

Top prospects to watch at this year’s Arizona Fall League

One of the most exciting elements of the MLB offseason is the Arizona Fall League, which began its 30th season Monday.
Evacuation order lifted after Ind. chemical fire