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Industrial fire prompts evacuation order in Richmond

Photo Supplied/AP Photo, Zach Piatt

RICHMOND, Ind. (AP) — Authorities urged people to evacuate Tuesday near a large industrial fire in an Indiana city near the Ohio border that sent massive clouds of black smoke into the sky.

The fire occurred at a former factory site in Richmond, 70 miles east of Indianapolis, that lately had been used to store plastics and other materials for recycling or resale, Mayor Dave Snow said.

“They were under a city order to clean up and remediate that site,” Snow told The Associated Press. “We knew that was a fire hazard the way they were storing materials.”

Snow described it as a “serious, large-scale fire” that apparently started in a tractor-trailer parked onsite and spread quickly. He said the fire had been contained on three sides by early evening. The cause was not immediately known.

“This is an indoor and outdoor storage facility — very, very large,” the mayor said.

There were no reports of injuries. But hundreds of people living within a half-mile of the fire were told to leave. People outside that radius who live downwind of the fire were advised to keep windows closed and pets inside.

Wind from the west blew black smoke across the state border into Ohio.

Bethesda Worship Center in Richmond offered temporary shelter for people forced out of their homes, while other agencies were trying to arrange hotel rooms if necessary, Pastor Ken Harris said.

Snow said state and federal regulators were at the scene to assess air quality and other environmental impacts.

Richmond has a population of 35,000.

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