UNITED STATES NEWS

Hundreds forced from Indiana homes as plastics fire burns

Apr 12, 2023, 7:50 AM | Updated: 4:06 pm

RICHMOND, Ind. (AP) — An evacuation order affecting more than 1,000 people remained in place Wednesday night around a large industrial fire in an Indiana city near the Ohio border where crews worked to douse piles of burning plastics.

Multiple fires that began burning Tuesday afternoon were still burning within about 14 acres of various types of plastics stored inside and outside buildings at a former factory site in Richmond, 70 miles (113 kilometers) east of Indianapolis, Fire Chief Tim Brown said.

He said the fire was contained but not under control. Brown said his goal was to finish dousing flames by Saturday morning but “that’s a guess.”

“We are attempting to put the fire out. We are not letting it burn. Evidently there’s some misinformation out there that we’re letting it burn,” he said.

Between 1,500 and 2,000 people who live within a half-mile (0.8 kilometer) of the plant were told to leave after the fire began, said David Hosick, spokesperson for the Indiana Department of Homeland Security.

The evacuation order remained in place Wednesday night. People outside the half-mile radius who live downwind of the fire were advised to keep windows closed and pets inside.

Brown said the fire’s cause remained under investigation and the only injury had been a firefighter who suffered a minor ankle injury overnight Tuesday.

Some Richmond residents took shelter at Oak Park Pentecostals, after families picking up children from the church’s daycare learned they could not return home, said executive pastor Jesse Arthur. He was expecting the church’s expansive gym — with bathrooms, showers and the daycare — to fill up.

“I think most everybody was exhausted. Long day. Traumatic. Everything’s up in the air,” Arthur told The Associated Press.

State and federal regulators were at the scene to monitor air quality and other environmental impacts. The site, which has been used to store plastics and other materials for recycling or resale, has been the target of enforcement action in recent years.

In 2020, a judge affirmed a cleanup order against Cornerstone Trading Group by Richmond’s Unsafe Building Commission. Inspectors had found fire sprinklers missing and what they cited as “excessive plastic materials” considered to be a fire hazard.

It wasn’t clear what, if any, work had been done since the 2020 court ruling. Messages seeking comment from the city were not immediately returned.

“The nature of my business is I’m a commodities dealer. We gather scrap materials,” Seth Smith of Cornerstone Trading told the commission in 2019, according to meeting minutes. He said that each of the boxes represents 150-200 pounds in scrap. “When we process it inside my facility, that same box will weigh 1,500 pounds and we load them onto the containers that go out to 29 different countries around the world,” he said.

Terry Snyder Jr. spent a restless night at a church Tuesday with his parents, who were worried about their home. All three were coughing from the smoke: Snyder and his mother, Wendy, have asthma, while his father, Terry Snyder Sr., has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

“I didn’t sleep all night. I was nervous,” Wendy Snyder said. “I’ve never been displaced from my home.”

Aaron Stevens, a police officer who lives six blocks from the site, remained at home despite the evacuation order and watched ash fall on his deck and yard.

Jason Sewell, the on-scene coordinator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, said the agency was sampling air outside the evacuation area and into part of Ohio, but no toxic compounds had been detected.

He stressed, however, that residents in the city of 35,000 should avoid the smoke.

President Joe Biden spoke by phone to Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb and offered his support and any additional federal assistance needed to respond to the fire, the White House said.

EPA Administrator Michael Regan said a team would be collecting debris samples in the area to determine whether anything containing asbestos may have left the site.

“So we’re following the situation very closely and will continue to provide the community with any assistance that they need,” Regan said.

Because of smoke still wafting from the fire, Indiana’s environmental agency issued an air quality advisory for two counties, Wayne and Randolph, warning that forecasts call for elevated levels of fine soot particles.

State Fire Marshal Steve Jones said residents need to get away from smoke plumes, especially elderly people with respiratory problems.

“There’s a host of different chemicals that plastics give off when they’re on fire. And so it’s concerning,” Jones said.

Pastor Ken Harris at Bethesda Worship Center in Richmond said his church housed about 20 people Tuesday night before they moved to a larger facility.

“We gave them a safe space to breathe and collect their thoughts,” Harris said as dark gray smoke billowed through the blue sky beyond the church’s windows.

___

Callahan reported from Indianapolis. Associated Press video journalist Beatrice Dupuy in New York contributed to this report.

United States News

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan speaks to employees in Washington, Thur...

Associated Press

EPA awards $4.3 billion to fund projects in 30 states to reduce climate pollution

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Environmental Protection Agency is awarding $4.3 billion in grants to fund projects in 30 states to reduce climate pollution. The money will go to 25 projects targeting greenhouse gas emissions from transportation, electric power, commercial and residential buildings, industry, agriculture and waste and materials management. The grants are paid for by […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Stock market today: Asian shares fall after Wall St ends worst week; Biden withdraw from 2024 race

Asian stocks were mostly lower Monday after President Joe Biden exited the 2024 race. The downbeat start to the week followed losses Friday on Wall Street as businesses around the world scrambled to contain disruptions from a massive technology outage. U.S. futures were little changed and oil prices rose. Biden announced his withdrawal from the […]

6 hours ago

FILE - San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris poses for a portrait in San Francisco, June 18...

Associated Press

Vice President Kamala Harris leads list of contenders for spots on the Democratic ticket

President Joe Biden’s decision to step down as the Democratic Party’s nominee for president opens the door for other contenders to become the Democratic nominee in November. The president has thrown his support behind Vice President Kamala Harris, and other prominent Democrats moved quickly to rally around her candidacy, but it’s unclear just how smooth […]

6 hours ago

Associated Press

Alaska police and US Coast Guard searching for missing plane with 3 people onboard

Alaska authorities are conducting a search for a missing airplane with three people onboard. Alaska State Troopers received a report from the U.S. Coast Guard of a missing plane shortly before 7:30 p.m. Saturday, the state Department of Public Safety said in a statement. The single-propeller, 1948 Beach Craft Bonanza was flying near Mount Crillon […]

6 hours ago

Republican vice presidential candidate Sen. JD Vance, R-Ohio, arrives to speak at a campaign event ...

Associated Press

JD Vance makes solo debut as GOP vice presidential candidate with Monday rallies in Virginia, Ohio

MIDDLETOWN, Ohio (AP) — To move overnight to set up Monday rally. Republican JD Vance will make his first solo appearances on the campaign trail Monday, a day after the 2024 presidential race was thrown into upheaval as President Joe Biden dropped out of the race, making the Democratic candidate an open question. Vance, an […]

6 hours ago

FILE - Vice President Kamala Harris, left, and President Joe Biden arrive for an event in the East ...

Associated Press

Takeaways from a day that fundamentally changed the presidential race

President Joe Biden’s abrupt decision to bow out of the presidential race and endorse Vice President Kamala Harris to be the Democratic candidate against former President Donald Trump caused a political earthquake on Sunday. It also changes the contours of a presidential race — which most voters said they did not want to see — […]

6 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Sanderson Ford

3 storylines to get you revved up for the 2024 Arizona Cardinals

Arizona Cardinals training camp is just a couple weeks away starting on July 25, and Sanderson Ford is revved up and ready to go.

...

DESERT INSTITUTE FOR SPINE CARE

Desert Institute for Spine Care is the place for weekend warriors to fix their back pain

Spring has sprung and nothing is better than March in Arizona. The temperatures are perfect and with the beautiful weather, Arizona has become a hotbed for hikers, runners, golfers, pickleball players and all types of weekend warriors.

...

Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinics: transforming health care in the valley

Midwestern University, long a fixture of comprehensive health care education in the West Valley, is also a recognized leader in community health care.

Hundreds forced from Indiana homes as plastics fire burns