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Indiana residents health concerns spike after ‘toxic’ fire

RICHMOND, Ind. (NewsNation) — Some debris from a major industrial fire fueled by tons of scrap plastics at an Indiana plant contains asbestos, officials warned Thursday.

The fire, which began burning Tuesday afternoon, sent massive clouds of black smoke into the sky for miles, just minutes from the Ohio border and 72 miles east of Indianapolis. Officials have warned that the smoke could contain toxic chemicals from the plastic stored in the facility.

Wendy Snyder, her husband, and her son struggle with asthma and COPD. The incident happened a mile away from her home, but they made the decision to evacuate immediately.

They’re staying in a local church that opened its doors to the public with the help of the American Red Cross. It’s a refuge miles away from the site of the fire.

“Survival mode. Just trying to take it day by day,” Snyder said. “It’s a little scary.”

Since the fire erupted, debris has scattered on roofs and in yards. Tests on debris that landed outside the fire zone showed some evidence of asbestos, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which urged residents not to disturb anything they find.

More tests are continuing on air quality, Jason Sewell of the EPA said.

“I am a little concerned with what kind of chemicals are in the air because I know there’s a lot of plastic in that facility,” said A.J. Cox, a Richmond resident. “So, what are we breathing in right now as you and I talk?”

“I’m not overly concerned, but I’m not gonna go outside for a run anytime soon,” said Richmond resident Corey Baker. “I’ve got two kids — two toddlers — at home so really more worried about them.”

The building had been under the microscope by Richmond’s Unsafe Building Commission.

In 2019, inspectors found fire sprinklers missing and what they cited as “excessive plastic materials” considered to be a fire hazard.

In 2020, a judge affirmed a cleanup order against Cornerstone Trading Group by Richmond’s Unsafe Building Commission. It came amid excessive plastic materials on site, which are considered a fire hazard.

An unwelcome realization to many who live and work nearby.

“It doesn’t matter who’s a fault, I’m an innocent victim,” one resident told NewsNation.

“I’m upset with whoever should have been enforcing that and not making sure something should have been done,” another resident said.

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