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Indiana Warehouse Fire Deposited Asbestos-Contaminated Debris

Published: May 5, 2023

An Indiana warehouse fire led to asbestos contaminated debris falling onto the surrounding community. The debris landed on school yards, playgrounds, day cares, and private homes. Areas affected by the falling debris include Richmond, Indiana, and nearby areas in Ohio. Asbestos fibers are weightless, so smoke carried the fibers, which then fell to the ground as debris. The Environmental Protection Agency is cautioning residents to not disturb debris that could be from the fire. Debris was removed by contractors from 16 schools, 10 day cares, one community center, and two parks in both Ohio and Indiana. Debris collection will start soon for residential properties. It is crucial to handle asbestos properly because it can cause many different cancers including mesothelioma and lung cancer.

The fire occurred at the former My Way Trading warehouse on April 11. There were two warehouses that caught fire. The warehouses were filled with chipped and shredded bulk plastic, so when they ignited, a cloud of toxic chemicals was released over the city. There was a half mile evacuation zone from the site and residents downwind were urged to shelter in place with doors and windows closed, HVAC units turned off, and pets kept indoors. The EPA was called in to monitor air quality for toxic substances after the fire. Officials found toxic chemicals including hydrogen cyanide, benzene, chlorine, carbon monoxide, and volatile organic compounds. Hydrogen cyanide can interfere with how the body uses oxygen, making it especially dangerous. It can also cause damage to the brain, heart, blood vessels, and lungs. Benzene is also harmful because it can damage the eyes, skin, airways, nervous system, and lungs. It is also a cause of blood cancers like acute myeloid leukemia.

Once chemicals were detected, the EPA alerted the fire department that hydrogen cyanide and benzene were present so the firefighters could take precautions when fighting the fire. The owner of the warehouse was taken to court by city officials because the plant had unsafe conditions and there were fears that a fire could start at the facility prior to the fire starting. Before the fire happened, the property owner was ordered to clean up the property but ignored orders from officials. The mayor believes that the owner is fully responsible for the problems caused by the fire. People’s lives were risked and firefighters were exposed to harmful chemicals because a negligent business owner didn’t care about being safe. The firefighters were able to get the fire under control pretty quickly, but hot spots popped up for several days. The fire was officially declared out on April 18, seven days after the fire started.


“My Way Trading Warehouse Fire” EPA [Link]

“Warehouse Fire Information” City of Richmond, Indiana (April 14, 2023). [Link]

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