The Indiana Department of Homeland Security says the Indiana National Guard is being deployed to Mitchell to help extinguish a massive fire at the Fibertech mulch plant.
The fire started Thursday around 11 a.m., and a 7-acre mulch pile is still burning. Heavy smoke from the fire caused the evacuation of at least a dozen nearby homes, as well as the closure of schools.
Mitchell Community Schools posted a statement online saying classes are canceled Friday due to the smoke and employees have been told not to report to work. The North Lawrence Community Schools district has also shut down schools due to the fire.
The National Guard began fighting the fire earlier this afternoon with water drops. But they have since discontinued the drops because high winds are dispersing the water.
Homeland Security says crews have begun using heavy equipment to move the mulch into a wetland to help extinguish the fire.
Larry Root is Board President of the Marion Township Rural Fire Department. He says many fire departments are responding.
“There has been a considerable amount of firemen that’s had some breathing problems from it,” Root says. “You can’t see your hand from your face.”
Officials say more than 50 people have sought treatment at emergency rooms since Thursday because of smoke-related complaints.
And according to Homeland Security, eight firefighters were also hospitalized for smoke inhalation, but are expected to make a full recovery.
Motorists have been advised to avoid the area about 75 miles southwest of Indianapolis.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.