Asbestos found in debris samples at warehouse fire site

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Marion County health officials have discovered asbestos in debris samples near a vacant factory that burned down Sunday.

They spent Wednesday afternoon cleaning it up and warning neighbors of the danger.

All over Sarah Wiggins' yard, right near her four-year-old son, Stephen, is dangerous debris that rained down after a factory fire. "She said I can't touch this stuff," said Stephen.

"I told him. I said it's dangerous. It'll hurt him," Wiggins said. "I really don't want my son out in it until it's better."

The Marion County Health Department, after testing samples on Monday, discovered debris from the Van Buren Street fire at an abandoned warehouse tested positive for asbestos - a lung hazard if inhaled by neighbors.

"It's really thin, paper-like material, kind of a white or, after the fire, a gray-black, and so that's what we're looking for," explained Marion County Health Department supervisor Jeff Larmore.

Members of the health department spent Wednesday afternoon, scouring the yards along East Calhoun Street, picking up the pieces that could pose a danger. They wet it down, then with masks and gloves, put the debris in bags to take away.

They also warned neighbors not to touch this stuff. Call the Health Department if you find it, or take precautions.

Health department officials plan to return to the area on Thursday.

"Just wet it like we're doing. Just keeping it wet just minimizes the risk. Put on some gloves, put it in a seal able bag and then hold onto it, call us and we'll come pick the bag up," Larmore explained.

The area affected is relatively small - just a couple of blocks - unlike asbestos debris from the Belmont Avenue fire, which covered miles of neighborhoods.

But the danger is real, which is why Sarah Wiggins is protecting her son and keeping her family safe.

"It just scared me," Wiggins said.

View slide show of the fire