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Walmart Distribution Fire: Why you shouldn't play with debris from the Plainfield fire

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Posted at 6:08 PM, Mar 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-17 13:53:39-04

HENDRICKS COUNTY — Chances are you're left wondering what you should and shouldn't do in the aftermath of the fire at a Walmart distribution center earlier today in Plainfield.

A local fire official is offering advice on just that.

Mike Pruitt, deputy chief with the Bargersville Fire Department, said there are several things to keep in mind as first responders work to contain the fire in the coming hours.

Some of the most important, Pruitt says, are staying indoors, avoiding contact with debris, and only calling 911 in an emergency.

PHOTOS | Plainfield Walmart distribution center fire

Staying inside can go a long way in making responders' and dispatchers' jobs easier.

"If there is no need to go outside whatsoever, then don't go outside," Pruitt said.

This is especially crucial for those who suffer from respiratory issues because they may be more prone to experiencing medical problems as a result of declining air quality.

If you're in a medical emergency, you should still call for help, but "emergency" is the keyword, Pruitt says.

This also applies to those who are concerned about falling debris. Pruitt emphasized that the public should only dial 911 if they are positive there's a fire.

"An operation like this, this is multi-faceted. It's all hands on deck," he said. "We want to go with definites right now, just because those communications operators are extremely busy right now."

When it comes to debris laying around, Pruitt says you should avoid touching it at all costs.

"Everyone likes to get out, pick it up and say, ‘Hey look what I’ve got,' but what they don’t understand is what they are picking up could have toxins in it that could contain carcinogens," he said.

RELATED | Plainfield fire's impact on air quality not yet determined, but officials urge caution

Firefighters are able to handle the debris because they wear gear specially designed to protect them from potentially hazardous material — something the general public does not have access to.

"The problem is that we don’t know what this material is. So when you get a building that size that’s on fire with contents inside, you may be picking up something that’s very toxic," he said.

Pruitt said the response to the fire is likely to last for a while.

Now that crews have checked that people are out of the building, their priorities are containing the flames and reaching individual portions of the building that collapsed during the fire.

Pruitt added that resources are being redirected from surrounding areas to Hendricks County, and there's a good chance even more firefighters will be brought out to replace those who've already been at the scene.

"This is going to be a long-term event for all these firefighters," he said.