Recycling center fire still smoldering, but under control


Firefighters worked a massive business fire for more than eight hours Saturday before declaring the blaze under control.  Crews fought through hurdles that included a structure collapse, exploding propane tanks, and spot fires caused by flying embers.

At one point nearly 200 emergency responders from seven fire departments were at the scene battling the Indianapolis southwest side fire. Four firefighters had minor injuries.  IEMS Medics checked out several residents complaining of difficulty breathing but none were transported.

Indianapolis Metro Police provided assistance with evacuations and street closures due to the fire, smoke and propane tank explosions.

The building still smolders, but investigators hope to get inside the building Monday. They have been interviewing witnesses since Saturday afternoon.

The fire occurred at a recycling center at 202 S. Belmont Ave. That's just southwest of Washington and Belmont. 2210 Oliver Ave. is adjacent to that property. Several businesses operate out of the building, which used to house the Link Belt Company.

See a map of the location.

The fire started between noon and 1:00 pm Saturday and thick, black smoke was still billowing from the building nearly four hours later. Even with the fire under control by 9:00 pm, the Indianapolis Fire Department expects to be at the scene throughout the night putting out hot spots and making sure nothing re-ignites.

"It's gonna be a long time," a firefighter at the scene told Eyewitness News around 6:00 pm.


Neighborhoods within a five-block radius were evacuated. IndyGo buses transported residents from their homes to 551 King Street.

The evacuations are as follows:
Harding to Belmont (East/West)
Oliver St. to Washington St. (North/South)
A roll call center is being set up at the King Street location, and the Red Cross is setting up a shelter for evacuees at 441 E. 10th St.
Indianapolis Metro Police are asking people to self-evacuate. If you can't, shelter in place. If you want to evacuate and need help, call police for assistance.
Residents were being allowed back into their homes by about 6:45 a.m Sunday.

Street closures

Washington Street was closed for several blocks between Harding and Tibbs.  Residents were asked to stay inside their homes.

CSX rail traffic was stopped through the area and the Indianapolis International Airport diverted flights away from the smoke. The CSX line near the fire scene is open again.

Fire facts

Two buildings caught fire Saturday. The first building is Nationwide Recycling; the one next door is Shelter Distribution. One of the buildings is occupied by a tire recycling company, bicycle shop, pallet recycling and a roofing company.

It's believed the fire started at Nationwide Recycling. Pallets, aluminum siding, rubber, lumber and other materials are inside the building. It's estimated that around 65,000 square feet of pallets, 85,000 square feet of recycled tires and 15 propane tanks are inside the building.

Over 30 percent of the building had collapsed by 6:00 pm, and a few hours later about 50 percent had collapsed.

Firefighters were spraying water onto a large propane tank inside the building to keep it cooled. It's less than a quarter full.

As of 6:00 pm, the fire was still not under control and IFD had concerns it would take another day to put it out, but by 9:00 pm it was marked under control. A large fire continued to burn in the center of the 440,000-square-foot building at 6:00 pm.

The Environmental Protection Agency and the Marion County Health Department are at the scene to monitor air quality.

IFD reports that one firefighter sustained a knee injury.

At 1:28 p.m. a third alarm was called for the fire. Firefighters worked defensively to prevent the fire from spreading to more buildings. At one point media crews were asked to move back because of propane tank explosions from inside one of the buildings.

Firefighters have laid thousands of feet of hose at the fire. The water company boosted the pressure to support operations.

Fire crews canvassed the rooftops of adjacent businesses checking for spot fires, and IFD Rehab Units were supplying food and water to exhausted firefighters. Fuel trucks were being called in to refuel fire trucks.

Falling ash and drifting embers are a big concern for firefighters. Embers traveled as far as one-eighth of a mile and ignited dumpsters.

One WTHR viewer tells us via Facebook that he's at the Indianapolis Zoo and that some ash from the fire is falling there. Other viewers are also reporting ash falling as far away as Central and 42nd St. Falling ash was also reported on the IUPUI campus and in Lawrence.

This is a large fire that can be seen for miles.

Do you have pictures of the fire? Share them here.

Emergency personnel citywide have been called to the scene to assist.

It's believed a few dozen people were on the site doing repair work Saturday morning, but they left before the fire started. That information came from one of the workers. Another employee tells Eyewitness News that there are several semi trucks in the plant holding diesel fuel.

Fire crews contacted the train company because the smoke was impacting travel. One train conductor, however, did not get the message. Fire crews had to get out of the way as the train approached, and the train severed a fire hose.

Property managers tell IFD that no one should have been inside the building when the fire broke out.