HENDRICKS COUNTY — It could be a while yet until it's known to what extent a massive fire in Plainfield impacted the air quality in the area.
Officials told WRTV late Wednesday that they're still trying to determine that as crews continue working to contain the flames.
Air monitoring equipment was being brought to the scene and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management had staff present, said Barry Sneed, a spokesperson for the IDEM.
Proximity of Hendricks County fire to Indianapolis International Airport. Smoke is blowing north away from airport. This image shows smoke plume just showing up at 1:05 pm. pic.twitter.com/e8Nc58OOXz— Kevin Gregory (@KevinGWRTV) March 16, 2022
While the exact degree of the damages is still undetermined, Sneed says it's important to keep in mind that smoke produced by any fire can be toxic, so people should be cautious.
That's especially true for those who are more at-risk than most.
"For instance, if I have a lung disease already, I'm going to be more sensitive to smoke than someone else, so I'm going to move to a further distance from the fire," Sneed said.
The biggest health threat smoke poses is from microscopic particles that can cause many issues, including burning eyes, a running nose, and aggravated heart and lung diseases, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
The particles can go deep into a person's lungs and, in some cases, are linked to premature death.
Individuals who are at the highest risk include those with a heart or lung disease, older adults, people caring for children, people with diabetes, and pregnant women, according to the EPA.
Sneed says the best thing people can do right now is to follow the advice of experts and officials. That includes paying attention to local air quality reports, which are available online.
So far it's not clear how long it will take for an air quality update since it varies by situation, said Hendricks County Emergency Management Director Dawn Mason.
The process to do so involves officials from local fire departments, health departments, emergency management agencies and IDEM.
Mason reiterated Sneed's advice, urging people to stay away from the area and stay out of smoke.
More information on adverse health effects from health is available on the EPA's website.