RICHMOND, Ind. — Officials have lifted the evacuation and shelter-in-place orders for individuals and families living near the site of a large industrial fire that erupted in Richmond on Tuesday.
Officials provided an update Sunday afternoon about the city’s next steps as the recovery efforts continue in the wake of the large fire. Officials, including EPA contractors, have been testing the air for the presence of harmful chemicals all week.
“This decision was made in collaboration with several federal, state and local officials and based upon guidance from the Wayne County Health Department,” said Matthew Cain, director of the Wayne County Emergency Management Agency. “We want the community to know and be reassured that we know, understand and recognize that this is only one milestone in what is going to be a very long event.”
Air monitor readings at the center of the evacuation zone detected a minimal amount of chemicals, such as benzene and particulate matter, that were found in the air over the course of the last few days, according to officials.
This led state and county health officials, alongside the Wayne County EMA, to conclude that it was safe to lift the order and allow residents to safely return to their homes.
EPA contractors have been scouring the evacuation zone searching for any signs of harmful chemicals, such as asbestos. They have been working to clear debris from school grounds, residences, parks and businesses.
The fire first erupted on Tuesday afternoon at an industrial plastic recycling company called My-Way Trading. The majority of the flames were put out as of Friday afternoon, as Richmond Fire Department Chief Tim Brown confirmed that some smoldering fires were still under the surface.
In the meantime, Brown said that fire crews would remain at the scene of the fire to watch for any potential flare-ups.
Despite the evacuation order being lifted, officials still emphasized that the public stay away from the area as firefighters continue their efforts to clear out any remaining fire.
“We will remain on scene and control any flare-ups. Please just stay away from the scene, please do not try and get down NW 2nd St. or NW F St.,” said Brown. “Let our crews do their jobs, we do not want you to be in harm’s way.”
Officials also asked that the public avoid coming into contact with any debris that may have landed outside their homes as these materials may contain asbestos and other harmful substances.
Instead, residents are asked to fill out a form online at www.richmondindiana.gov/news/debris-form. A member of the EPA will then reach out to gather more information.
Officials also announced that cleaning kits will be available for any residents moving back to their homes.
“It will be important for you to not only cleanse the outside of your house on high touch surfaces like door handles and railings, but if your house did fill with smoke from the fire, we have instructions on how to properly and safely clean the inside of your home,” said Christine Stinson, executive director of the Wayne County Health Department.
Those cleaning kits are free and can get picked up from Wayne County Health Department at 100 S. 5th St. The health department will be open until 8 p.m. this evening for residents.
The City of Richmond has also established a community helpline for local residents at (765) 973-9300.
The EPA has a website dedicated to the Richmond fire and can be found here.