McCREARY COUNTY, Ky. (WKYT) - Thick black smoke could be seen for miles as it towered high over the King's Tire Recycling Center in Stearns.
"It's probably escalated in volumes of 4-to-5,000 tires," described the McCreary County Emergency Management Director, Rudy Young.
For some, this was a fear that turned into reality, as they've had concerns about the plant's safety. Dick Brown, spokesman for the Public Protection Cabinet, said the site has a history of violations, including not having fire breaks and stacking tires too close to homes. The Assistant County Judge was told by a firefighter that there have been roughly seven calls to the recycling center over the past few years.
Today, the fire started in the early afternoon and quickly spread. The 12 employees working inside all got away safely, as more than 40,000 tires went up in smoke.
"We don't know if it was equipment. We don't know if it was set, we just know it was inside that building," explained Young.
The McCreary Record reports some nearby factories and a daycare have been evacuated and people who live nearby are being told to stay indoors. The reason being, the air quality. With the tires burning and the smoke spreading, the health of others was a major concern.
People living within a mile radius of the center were asked to evacuate. Many went to stay with family, some chose to stay home, others found shelter at the Senior Center.
"The black smoke was really bad," recalled Alisha Cordell, "and we walked down just a few feet, probably a couple hundred feet, and we could see the flames from that house."
Cordell's family was a part of roughly 26 people that flocked to the temporary shelter. The crowd became so large that the Red Cross closed the Senior Center and moved the evacuees to the Parkland Motel for the night.
"It's very stressful."
Even more, Cordell is traveling with her young twins that aren't even supposed to be around other people because their immune systems aren't fully developed. Now they're forced out of their home.
"They're crying and they've just been upset," said the worried mother, still waiting to return home and maybe back to normal.
"We didn't have to leave forever, right?" asked Cordell's son, "Yes, we didn't have to leave forever," answered the mother gently.
Young says the fire is still burning and will likely continue for several days because of the number of tires and the type of fire. A special crew from Nicholasville was called in to help contain the fire. Meanwhile, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is on hand to track the air and water quality in the area.