UPDATE: After arrival of thundershowers forced the smoke plume downwards, more than 100 homes are now under mandatory evacuation. Residents within 13 blocks affected by the smoke have been advised to travel by car to the Emerald Youth Foundation building, with police vehicles on standby to provide assistance. 

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A fire that broke out at Loudon Waste and Recycling Wednesday afternoon could last days, according to Knoxville Fire Department spokesman DJ Corcoran. 

Corcoran said the fire is difficult to extinguish because the fire's source is buried under debris in the “big trash fire.” He added the work is labor-intensive, leading to a days-long recovery.

Explosions and wind shift has also hindered the fire fight, but no injuries have been reported with all 25 employees at the center evacuated and accounted for, Knoxville Fire Department Capt. D.J. Corcoran told the “Knoxville News Sentinel.” No civilian injuries have been reported, either.

Air quality could be affected in the immediate surrounding areas, however.

“To protect your health, it’s important to remember that if you can see or smell smoke, move away from the area,” Knox County Air Quality Director Lynne Liddington said in a news release. “If you cannot move away from the smoke, shut your doors and windows and turn off your air conditioning units. If you are driving through the smoke, roll up your windows and turn your air conditioning to recirculate, so you are not drawing the smoke into the vehicle.”

Residents south of the incident were evacuated by bus to the Emerald Youth building on Central Avenue around 3:30 p.m., according to a tweet from the Knoxville Fire Department. Several roads are closed in the surrounding area as evacuations continued. The Salvation Army opened its gym located at 409 N Broadway to those affected by the fire in the immediate area.

A power outage affecting 700 people was reported at 2:30 p.m. as Knoxville Utilities Board works to de-energize power lines as a safety measure.

The fire, at 2742 Hancock St. and encompasses about four city blocks, was reported around 1:10 p.m. Firefighters surrounded the area where cardboard, paper, plastic and other recycling waste remained ablaze. It is still unclear what caused the fire, but an owner said he witnessed a spark from a backfiring piece of equipment which he thinks may have started the fire.

The Knoxville Fire Department ruled the fire contained as of 5:25 p.m., feeling comfortable the fire will not spread. Power to all homes had been restored, but evacuations were still in order. 

This is an ongoing story and will be updated as information is made available.

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