A massive fire that broke out Tuesday afternoon at a plastics recycling plant in eastern Indiana is expected to burn for several more days, as officials monitor the air around the clock for “asbestos-containing materials” and other toxic debris, the EPA said Wednesday.
About 2,000 people who live within a 0.5-mile radius of the scene remained under evacuation orders Wednesday evening.
Residents of Richmond, Indiana, who live outside the evacuation zone are advised to take safety measures, including closing windows, turning-off air conditioning, and keeping pets inside.
The fire broke out at two warehouses that contain large amounts of plastic recyclables for reselling.
Fire Chief Tim Brown said Wednesday that the plant had previously been issued a citation on the basis of “unsafe building and unsafe grounds,” due to floor to ceiling plastics that were inside the buildings.
Officials from the EPA are conducting “24-hour air monitoring” to check for asbestos and other toxic debris, though sample results aren’t expected back for the next days or weeks.
“Asbestos-containing materials may be present due to the age of the building,” the EPA said Wednesday.
The cause of the fire is unclear. The Indiana State Fire Marshal’s Office said that it will be “days” before investigators can approach the scene.
The scenes of black smoke billowing over neighborhoods were eerily similar to a train derailment earlier this year in East Palestine, Ohio, when several rail cars carrying hazardous materials went off the tracks.
Residents there were evacuated ahead of a controlled burn by officials.