IDEM warns of diminished air quality due to Richmond warehouse fire

April 12, 2023

The Indiana Department of Environmental Management said a fire at a recycled plastics warehouse in Richmond has degraded air quality in at least two counties.

IDEM issued an Air Quality Action Day April 12 for Wayne and Randolph counties because of elevated levels of fine particles in the air due to smoke from a fire at a former recycling plastics warehouse in Richmond.

Indiana State Fire Marshal Stephen Jones said the fire was contained but that smoke coming from the warehouse at 358 N.W. F St. is “definitely toxic.” The fire is expected to burn for days.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said it was monitoring air around the site at 15 mobile monitoring locations. The agency said it has detected particulates and was also monitoring the air for carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, benzene, chlorine, hydrogen cyanide, sulfuric acid and hydrochloric acid.

The fire first started the afternoon of Tuesday, April 11. Richmond officials said the cause of the fire is unknown and would not be known until after the fire is put out.

The city ordered the evacuation of everyone living half a mile from the site. Displaced persons are being taken to the Oak Park Pentecostal Church. Anyone living in the evacuation zone can call (765) 983-7580 to arrange for transportation to the church.

People living outside the evacuation zone have been encouraged to turn off their air conditioners and stay indoors.

City officials said the owner of the buildings has previously been cited by the city’s Unsafe Building Commission for various violations and ordered to clean up the property. Richmond Mayor Dave Snow said the order was ignored and the city has been involved in a court case to force cleanup of the property. Snow said the business owner was “fully responsible” for the fire.

Property records show the property was owned by a California-based company called AFG Investment Fund I LLC until 2021, when it was acquired by the Wayne County Board of Commissioners. The City of Richmond now owns the property.

IDEM warns of diminished air quality due to Richmond warehouse fire