RICHMOND, Ind. — Families in Richmond, Ind. are finally returning home after a large industrial fire erupted there nearly a week ago.
This comes after the Wayne County Emergency Management Agency lifted both the evacuation and shelter-in-place orders on Sunday afternoon.
The lifting of the evacuation order was a cumulative decision among several local, state and federal entities. City leaders along with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have been continually searching the site of the fire for harmful substances like asbestos and benzene.
Officials with the Wayne County Health Department said most of the contamination they are seeing is contained to the burning zone. Otherwise, officials said there are very, very low levels of those harmful chemicals or no detection of them at all.
The most important thing residents can do now is focus on safely cleaning up, one expert said.
“The emergency was hard, but the hard work begins now,” Christine Stinson, the executive director of the Wayne County Health Department, said. “The clean-up process is hard and we want people to be safe during that clean-up because we do know there were toxic compounds in the fire.”
For returning residents, there is still a lot of debris, ash and residue left over from the fire, and health officials say it is important to be extra cautious when cleaning up your homes.
This includes wearing gloves and a mask, using wet disposable towels to thoroughly wipe down all high-touch surfaces, airing out your home by opening windows and doors for a few hours and throwing out any fresh food.
To help with the clean-up process, the city of Richmond along with the health department put together free clean-up kits for anyone impacted. These can be picked up during business hours at the Wayne County Health Department located at 100 S. 5th Street.
If you believe your property has any suspicious debris left from the fire, do not try to remove it. Visit www.richmondindiana.gov/news/debris-form to request removal.
It will take time to get everything back to normal but Richmond residents say they are hopeful the community will come out of this disaster even stronger.