Fire near downtown Indy forces evacuations

10:13 PM, Jun 15, 2013   |    comments
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INDIANAPOLIS - A sunny Saturday skyline in downtown Indianapolis was darkened by a constant drift of huge balls of black smoke, visible from miles away, as a large recycling facility burned most of the afternoon.

No workers were inside at the time of the blaze, but the flames were fed non-stop by more than 85,000 square feet of tires and 60,000 square feet of wooden pallets.

Officials said the fire might burn until Monday.

There were no major injuries, although one firefighter suffered a minor injury while fighting the fire. Trains on nearby CSX lines were also halted.

"This is a very dangerous situation," said IMPD spokesman Christopher Wilburn. "Dangerous to breath the smoke and dangerous because we don't know what the fire is going to do."

One third of the roof of warehouse had collapsed by late afternoon.

The blaze at the 440,000 square-foot Nationwide Recycling facility broke out shortly after 1 p.m. The fire grew so big and so bad, that the city's Emergency Response Team was activated to help deal the consequences, including the evacuation of nearby homes.

All over the city and even into the suburbs, people stopped and watched the smoke that seemed to never stop billowing.

Jerry Andrews, 46, saw the smoke from the White River Yacht Club in Indianapolis.

"I went home and got my bike and decided to be nosy," he said. "I have not seen a fire like this since I saw a textile plant burn a few years ago."

Several explosions were heard, possibly the result of fueled-up trucks and propane tanks that were stored inside.

Lisa Smith, 53, said she lives four blocks from the fire but authorities would not let her go home.

"I'm not frustrated yet but I'm getting there," said Smith, who at that time had been waiting for a half hour. "It's like they just can't put it out."

Not only was the main fire "extremely labor intensive" but there were also concerns about burning debris from the fire spreading throughout the area. Firefighters spent time "canvassing the roof tops of adjacent businesses checking for spot fires,'' according to the Indianapolis Fire Department Twitter feed.

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