Indiana officials assess hazards as recycling fire victims wait to return home

April 15 (UPI) -- Officials on Saturday are reviewing contamination levels to determine when Richmond, Ind., residents forced to evacuate their homes can return following a toxic fire at a recycling facility.

About 2,000 residents living within a half-mile of the plant were evacuated Tuesday in response to a massive blaze which emitted thick clouds of toxic smoke, and by Saturday many remained unable to return home.


Indiana State Fire Marshall Steve Jones raised concerns about the potentially toxic effects of the fire.

"There is a host of different chemicals that plastics give off when they're on fire, and it's concerning," Jones told reporters in a Wednesday briefing.

The Environmental Protection Agency said it was investigating potential asbestos contamination in the surrounding area and that it had found volatile organic compounds, benzene, chlorine, and hydrogen cyanide inside the evacuation zone.

"EPA contractors are searching for, flagging, and removing debris from the fire," the Richmond city government said in an update posted online Friday.

Local officials also warned that the site of the fire was likely to continue emitting toxic substances.

"Because of the nature of the fire and the material it has burned, it is expected to continue smoldering and producing smoke, soot, or burnt plastic smell for several more days," the update said.


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