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Industrial fire in US state forces thousands to evacuate

A massive blaze engulfed what seems to be a plastic storage facility, which firefighters say will burn for days

A fire at an industrial compound in Richmond, Indiana has led to an evacuation order for around 2,000 residents within a half-mile radius of the blaze due to the thick toxic smoke emanating from the facility.

US media reports suggest that the fire broke out on Tuesday sometime after 2pm local time at a facility that was a former lawn mower manufacturing plant that had been closed for years and was being used to store various kinds of plastics.

According to Richmond Fire Chief Tim Brown, the fire appears to have originated from a semi-trailer truck containing “unknown types of plastic” and later spread to six other nearby buildings which were also part of the compound. He noted that the fire had now been contained and that other buildings or residential areas were not in jeopardy of catching fire.

Brown stated that local firefighters were aware that the facility was a fire hazard and that the owner had been warned about violating fire safety protocols on multiple occasions.

“It wasn’t a matter of if, it was a matter of when this is going to happen,” Brown told reporters on the scene, adding that the facility, which is about 175,000 square feet, was “completely full, from floor to ceiling and wall to wall” with plastics.

Indiana State Fire Marshal Steve Jones, who spoke alongside Brown, stated that while the fire had been contained, “it’s going to burn for a few days.” He added that the smoke emanating from the facility, which can be seen for miles, “is definitely toxic” and could contain “a host of different chemicals.” 

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Jones noted that evacuation orders will stay in place for a couple of days and could be expanded if wind conditions change. He also encouraged residents downwind of the evacuation zone to stay inside.

The incident comes amid a series of massive fires at various industrial facilities, as well as a number of trail derailments across the US in recent months. 

One of the most prominent incidents occurred in Ohio in February, when a cargo train operated by Norfolk Southern came off the tracks near the city of East Palestine, spilling millions of liters of hazardous chemicals and causing a massive blaze. State authorities claim that the air and water are now safe for residents, but some locals have reported feeling unwell in the wake of the crash.

April 12, 2023 at 09:26PM

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