Asbestos found at Belmont Ave. fire scene - 13 WTHR Indianapolis

Asbestos found at Belmont Ave. fire scene

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INDIANAPOLIS -

Homeland Security and health officials have determined there is asbestos in the tile flooring, insulation and roofing materials of the Belmont Ave. warehouse that burned Saturday.

But are the people living in the area around this fire affected by the particles they inhaled? That's what we should learn today. Health officials don't think so. But they won't know for sure until those test results are back today.

Officials held a news conference at 4:00 pm Tuesday.

Investigators will be wearing protective clothing as they look for the cause of the fire. They will be limited to 20 minutes at a time inside the remains of the building, and they will wear special breathing apparatus.

Officials believe the threat to people outside of the area is minimal. They are waiting on air samples from Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday to determine that.

Melvin Hemphill has found pieces of paper in his yard, scorched on one side, usually still eggshell in color on the other. He believes it is from the roofing of the charred warehouse.

"Everybody's concerned about it, just something you wonder about," said homeowner Gerone Hansen.

Health investigators set up air sensors the night of the blaze and are getting results back. They know there was asbestos in the plant's roofing, pipes, and flooring.

"At this point, (we) don't believe there is a significant risk from asbestos off-site, " Jeff Larmore with the health department said. "During the fire, there was a lot of water being put on the property. That's the best thing you could do with asbestos," Larmore explained. "Wet fibers do not get into the air. Wet fibers get wet and they just stay where they're put."

If people find ash or debris from the fire in their yards, they should wash it down or wet it and put it in the trash. Marion County officials say if you have children's toys outside, wash them down with soap and water to get any dust off them.

"That's why my grand kids are at home and not here with me," says Elizabeth Melton. "I don't want them getting sick. I have one granddaughter who has asthma."

The health department says people who stayed indoors during the fire - sheltered in place - would be okay, even if some asbestos got airborne.

At Andrea Ettinger's yard sale, there are no worries and confidence health officials are on top of it.

"I'm not that much of a worrier," says Andrea Ettinger. "I'm from a big city in Germany where there is stuff flying around all the time. No I'm not worried."

"I don't think there are any levels of asbestos that would affect me, maybe my plants. I'm not sure. We'll see," said Ettinger's husband, Steve.

An elite team of federal investigators got to work Tuesday in Indianapolis looking for whatever sparked a massive plant fire on Belmont Ave.

They are part of the ATF's National Response Team, and they are here to help investigate Saturday's west side three-alarm fire. The group is familiar with working on large investigations.

The team of local and federal investigators are getting their first good look of the massive fire scene Tuesday. They are getting ready for heavy equipment to move in and start digging into the debris.

Digging won't occur until Wednesday. Some parts of the building are still burning. Some of the walls look as though they're ready to collapse, and 60 percent of the structure has already collapsed. It's still a dangerous situation.

Investigators will review the scene with the first arriving firefighters. That will allow them to understand where the fire started, how it progressed and how it went on - information critical to the investigation.

The on-site investigation could take a week to ten days.

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