During a message broadcast Sunday afternoon, the Wayne County Emergency Management Agency lifted the evacuation order for residents and businesses within a half mile of the site of last week’s industrial fire, as well as the shelter in place order for others in the area.
Mayor Dave Snow said the decision is based on the analysis of data collected by the Environmental Protection Agency since the fire started. “After several meetings discussing that data, Wayne County EMA is ready to make a sound determination,” Snow said.
The orders had been in place since Tuesday April 11 when concern for the spreading smoke and the release of toxic fumes prompted officials to go door to door asking residents to leave immediately, and advising those outside the evacuation zone to remain inside and close or turn off systems that might bring in air from the outside.
The lab analyzing the air quality data has been expediting the process, Snow said. He indicated that data collection is ongoing and analysis will continue.
Wayne County Health Department executive director Christine Stinson said during the announcement that officials have assembled cleaning kits for residents to use when they return home. She recommended first cleaning outdoor areas and high touch surfaces such as door handles and railings. She said that if a residence was known to have filled with smoke, there are steps that occupants should follow to properly clean it, including first airing it out.
Stinson said that if someone finds debris in their yard, they should use the debris pickup request form online or call the help hotline at 765-973-9300, and the EPA will be given the address to assist with proper cleanup. Stinson cautioned that a response could take a few days as the agency is concentrating on public spaces and schools, and then will turn their attention to individual residences.
Officials cautioned that property owners should not attempt to clean up any debris that they believe to be from the fire and that is bigger than a quarter.
Snow again thanked the swift actions of the Richmond Fire Department and partner agencies that allowed them to extinguish the fire quickly without any loss of life. “We cannot replace human lives, so we should feel thankful today that we can start that process of (returning to) normalcy.”
The city is still actively responding to the fallout from the fire that sent residents fleeing to area shelters and hotels, canceled school and athletic programs, and left the community on edge about the health and environmental implications of the incident. An information website has been set up at richmondindiana.gov/news/warehouse-fire-information and community members without online access can call a help line number being staffed around the clock, 765-973-9300.