RICHMOND, Ind. — 13 Investigates sifted through legal and state documents and learned both the state and City of Richmond flagged the site of a massive April 11 fire for problems.
City officials were specifically worried about a fire that could lead to evacuations, which is exactly what happened.
“They are still accountable for everything on this site,” Richmond Mayor Dave Snow said. “For the mess on this site. They are responsible for the fire that's happened and all the damage that ensued afterward."
Investigators are calling this the My-Way Trading Warehouse fire. My-Way Trading is the former name of the company, but 13 Investigates learned it goes by different names, including Diversified Green Solutions and Cornerstone Trading Group. All of those companies are connected to Seth Smith, who is listed as a company president, as well as a registered agent.
In 2013, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management started investigating the site on NW F Street. State records appear to show the recycling plant did not properly report hazardous materials, some of which were very flammable.
13 Investigates went through several pages of documents, which show the state issued two civil penalties. Paperwork from October 2014 showed the state issued a civil penalty for $37,500. It looks as if the owner fought that but eventually signed an agreement a year later, which included a civil penalty for $10,200.
A letter from the company stated fighting the fines resulted in “in a great deal of lost business for My-Way.” The company agreed to pay the fines because of the expense and health issues Smith was dealing with at the time. The letter goes on to state, “My-Way simply does not have the time or money to fight this any longer.”
The company’s problems did not end there. In July 2019, the Richmond Unsafe Building Commission issued an Order to Repair, Demolish or Vacate. The owner fought that order in court.
The city eventually prevailed and included evidence that the owner even stated his properties were "out of control.”
An eight-page document shows local leaders even requested the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration conduct an "air plume study.” They were worried about a fire and "possible evacuations of the area."
That matter was settled shortly before the city took over some of the property in 2021.
Of course, 2,000 people had to be evacuated when the recycling facility became engulfed in flames Tuesday afternoon.