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Fibertech Fire Is Almost Out
Updated April 16, 2018 6:49 AM | Filed under: Fire
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(MITCHELL) - The fire at FiberTech is almost completely out.

" I am so proud to live in a community where emergency responders, elected officials, state officials, businesses, Red Cross, Faith based organizations and the caring citizens work together as a team to solve problems and make our community safe," says Valerie Luchauer, Lawrence County Emergency Management Director. "We are so blessed and have much to be thankful for."

Indiana Department of Homeland Security spokesman David Hosick says the fire was 90 percent contained Saturday. He says crews continued using heavy equipment to reach the burning sections and rain in the area has helped to douse the flames.

"It is a solid mulch pile that covers seven acres. It is not one stack. They run into like a valley with a chain of mountains," Luchauer added.

Marion Township Rural Fire Department Chief Paul Gillespie says the wind died down and the situation drastically improved. Firefighters were able to get the burning piles turned over and extinguish the blaze from underneath.

Firefighters will continue to monitor the piles for a few days.

Officials say more than 50 people sought treatment at emergency rooms on Thursday and Friday because of smoke-related complaints. Hosick says he had no additional illness reports Saturday, but people were still being urged to avoid the smoke's path.

"The smoke was extremely dangerous," Chief Gillespie added. "The levels were at 300 parts per million for carbon monoxide. If your detector goes off in your house and there is 9 parts per million, we tell you to evacuate. There were also high levels of benzene and trace amounts of ammonia in the smoke."

Chief GIllespie says the fire ranked in the top three of the worst logistical situations he's seen. He was one of the firefighters that sought treatment.

"I also want to thank the citizens that came to the fire station, donated drinks, food and supplies," he added. "We replenished the Tabernacle of Praise Emergency Services unit with supplies that will be redistributed out on fires all around the county. I can't express my appreciation enough."

The fire at Fibertech began at about 11 a.m. on Thursday. Orange tinted thick smoke overtook the streets of Mitchell Thursday.

"We did air monitoring and it showed some benzine, carbon monoxide, trace ammonias, and some organic matters," Luchauer said.

The Indiana National Guard was deployed Friday morning to assist in extinguishing the fire using aerial water drops. Mutual aid fire departments from surrounding counties have also been assisting. But the aerial support did not extinguish the blaze. Following several water drops (more than 550 gal each), it became evident the wind was too strong and dispersing the water. Crews began using heavy equipment to relocate the mulch to a nearby wetland to help the fire dissolve.

Residents who were evacuated are being allowed back into their homes at their own discretion. Officials say between ten and fifteen homes within a half-mile radius of the plant were evacuated as a precaution.

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