MITCHELL, Ind. (AP/WDRB) - Health officials say dozens of people have sought treatment for smoke-related issues due to a large mulch fire burning in southern Indiana.

Firefighting crews from across the area responded Thursday to the fire at the Fibertech plant in Mitchell that produces mulch.

On Friday Indiana University Health officials said two hospitals have seen a rise in emergency department visits since Thursday due to smoke from the fire.

Health workers at IU Health Bedford Hospital saw about 49 people with smoke-related issues, including 36 who were discharged. The IU Health Paoli Hospital saw three patients because of the fire. 

Lawrence County Sheriff Mike Branham says smoke from the fire could be an issue for days.

Because the smoke continues to be thick, some residents who have been evacuated in the immediate area could be relocated to a shelter being established by the Lawrence County EMA.

Firefighters remained at the scene Friday.

The Indiana Department of Homeland Security says the Indiana National Guard was deployed Friday to assist firefighters using aerial water drops, but those efforts were suspended after "it became evident the wind was too strong and dispersing the water."

As of Friday afternoon, eight firefighters were taken to the hospital for treatment of smoke inhalation. They are expected to fully recover.

Crews are now using heavy equipment to relocate the mulch to a nearby wetland to help the fire dissolve.

Motorists have been advised to avoid the area about 75 miles southwest of Indianapolis, and Lawrence County officials are advising area residents to stay inside their homes.

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.

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