Asbestos Found at Site of Massive Warehouse Blaze

By Stephanie Parkinson - 21Alive

November 5, 2013 Updated Nov 5, 2013 at 6:59 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (21Alive) - There are signs warning of asbestos outside the site of one of the city's largest fires.

On August 19 the industrial complex in the 1200 block of Herbert Street on the city's east side went up in flames. Now, the owners have signs posted saying 'Danger: Asbestos, Cancer and Lung Disease Hazard.'

21Alive looked into what this means for the safety of people in the area today, and for the safety of people who were in that area on August 19.

"Can we stand here and say there was no asbestos in the air? Absolutely not," said Deputy Chief Mark Nelson, Fort Wayne Fire Department. "I feel like we did everything that we could do to measure whether or not there was any acute danger to the public. All indications were that there was not."

Asbestos can lead to a rare form of cancer called Mesothelioma.

"It's not determined if it takes one fiber to cause that, or whether it takes 500 fibers to cause that," said Andrew Boester, SES Environmental.

Boester works for SES Environmental. He knows the dangers asbestos poses, but also says the day of the fire the threat was minimal.

"If those fibers are coated in water then they're going to be heavier now, they're going to settle out faster, they're going to drop out of the air," said Boester.

Boester also says asbestos was made to be fire retardant. So it burns slower lessening the chance of it becoming airborne in the first place.

During fires the Fort Wayne Fire Department tests the air, but they don't have the capability to test for asbestos. However, Deputy Chief Mark Nelson agrees the threat was low.

The danger now is to anyone who goes on the property and handles what's left at the site.

"If they're getting in there to try to remove anything or going in to do anything with that stuff, and stirring it up, that's where a risk would start to appear," said Boester.

Officials with IDEM say the owners of the property are working with officials to clean up the debris, but say that could take some time.

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