Industrial Fire Prompts Evacuations As ‘Toxic’ Smoke Fills Air


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A large industrial plant fire has prompted officials in Indiana to issue evacuation orders for nearby residents due to the “definitely toxic” smoke.

Residents living within a half-mile radius of the abandoned Hoffco factory in Richmond were urged to evacuate April 11, after a large fire broke out, consuming plastics that were being stored in the facility, CBS News reported.

Fire officials responded to the site after seeing a large plume of smoke emanating from the building. Upon arriving, Richmond Fire Department Chief Tim Brown told reporters officials found a semi-trailer behind the building that appears to have started the blaze.

“The fire spread from the semi-trailer to other piles of plastics that were around the trailer. We only had one access into where the fire was, all the other access roads were blocked by other piles of plastic and other semi-trailers. So once the fire got out of control, it darkened down on us, we backed out real quick and went into defensive mode,” Brown stated. (RELATED: Train Derailment In Ohio Sparks Massive Fire, Evacuations)

Indiana State Fire Marshal Steve Jones confirmed the smoke was “definitely toxic,” and warned residents, especially anyone with breathing difficulties, to avoid inhaling it by either staying inside or evacuating the area for the next few days.

“If there’s a lot of smoke, they need to get out of it,” Jones said. “They need to find a temporary place to stay and honestly, this fire is gonna burn for a few days. It’s a big enough fire where it’s not just going to be tonight. It’s going to burn awhile.”

Brown confirmed that the blaze had been contained to the area of the abandoned factory. Though Brown was not able to immediately disclose who currently owned the building, he told reporters it was completely filled from “floor to ceiling and wall to wall” with plastics.

Brown noted the fire was the largest he had seen in his career as a fire official, adding that the blaze was particularly challenging to fight as officials only have access to one side of the building. Brown further voiced his frustration with the blaze, telling reporters the owner of the building had been cited several times over the potential hazards for stacking plastics in and around the building.

“It’s very frustrating for all of us,” Brown said. “The battalion chief on today, he was very frustrated when he pulled up, because we knew it wasn’t a matter of if, it was a matter of when this was going to happen.”

The cause of the fire is still under investigation, Brown stated.