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'It looked like a storm was brewing' Residents in Richmond react to fire, health concerns from smoke

Richmond Fire.jpg
Posted at 11:44 AM, Apr 12, 2023
and last updated 2023-04-12 14:38:07-04

RICHMOND — Residents living near the area of a large industrial fire on Tuesday describe the scene as they were forced to evacuate their homes over health concerns from the smoke being emitted.

More than 2,000 people were ordered to evacuate after the fire broke out at the My Way Trading Warehouse on NW F Street around 2:30 p.m.

Alicia Rhoades tells WRTV she noticed the smoke from her home on N 12th Street shortly after the fire had started.

“I happened to look out my window and I seen the smoke rolling and it almost looked like a storm was brewing,” Rhoades said.

Rhoades works at Village Pantry, which is less than a mile away from the fire. She was able to hunker down there for the night.

“If they needed my help I could clock in and help out,” Rhoades said.

She says she hopes that her neighbors and the first responders working the scene are able to stay safe while working to keep the fire out.

“I just care to make sure everybody’s okay and everybody’s safe," she said. "That’s what I’m worried about more than anything."

Roger Runyon says he was sleeping just two blocks from the warehouse when the commotion from the response woke him up.

“Black smoke. Bunch a fire engines and cop cars,” the life-long Richmond resident said.

Runyon says the former Hoffco facility has been rundown for years — and had become overwhelmed with piles of plastic materials.

“It was gonna happen eventually,” he said.

The 175,000 square foot facility is owned in part by the City and in part by a private citizen.

Richmond Fire Chief Tim Brown says that private citizen, whose name has not been released, received multiple unsafe building citations.

“It’s frustrating for all of us,” Chief Brown said. “He has been warned several times. We have an unsafe citation that was issued to him. We don’t know exactly when that was but we were aware of the situation and we were dealing with the situation.”

Officials say the fire could take days to fully put out.

Anyone living nearby is asked to continue to adhere to the evacuation order until they are cleared to come home.