Massive fire at a chemical factory in Illinois

SDM News

During the early hours of Monday morning, an explosion occurred at a chemical plant in Illinois. It started large fires that sent out plumes of smoke and flames into the air of the entire area, sending debris and particles into the surrounding, which however prompted evacuations in the area. 

At around 7am, there was a rush of emergency crews onto the site of the fire near Rocktown, northwest of Chicago at a company called Chemtool. Inc, where things like lubricants, grease products and a few other fluids are manufactured and according to the company’s report, is the largest manufacturer of grease in the United State.

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The Rockton fire department’s chief, Kirk Wilson explained that about 70 employees were safely removed from the building, while a firefighter suffered a minor injury. The plant’s parent company, Lubrizol Corp made a statement saying that there were about 50 employees present when the building was evacuated. 

The flames and plumes from the building were so large, they were picked up on the weather radar. The fire department chief also stated that “there was no real danger to air quality at ground level”

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The police department of Rockton, Northwest of Chicago, sent out an alert at around 8am, warning that there should be an evacuation of homes and businesses near the plant, as stated by the fire department. Later that day the office of  Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s expanded the zone of the evacuation, from a 1-2 mile radius from the chemical plant to a total out of bound. People around the area were also cautioned to wear masks to avoid inhaling soot.

The Chief of the fire department Wilson also stated that he is monitoring the situation closely and will continue to make resources available to ensure that everyone in that area remained safe. He also said his firefighters had stopped the use of water to extinguish the explosions to prevent an “environmental nightmare” if the debris were to fall into the neighboring Rock River. 

“We can’t make wild guesses as to how long it’ll take to put out the fire” he said, “we ask for patience” 

The crew of 40 or more from the fire departments  fanned out to respond to spot fires, burning debris that had been pushed by the wind into the community and also grass fires. Wilson Kirk also stated that the cause of those fires were burning cardboards boxes and not chemicals falling from the sky onto land. 

The planning and development administrator for Rockton, Trisha Diduch said her estimate  placed a 1,000 people that were affected by the order for evacuation. 

Another witness, 29 year old resident Alyssa King said she had stumbled out of her house to see smoke and what looked to be pieces of cardboard falling from the sky and she had immediately called the police who told her she had to leave with urgency.

There were however no immediate reports of injuries from anyone.  

The US environmental protection Agency staffers also arrived on the site and proceeded to conduct air monitoring and sampling, their spokesperson on Monday afternoon stated that they were working alongside the Illinois EPA, which would also be sending out a team to the site according to their spokesperson Kim Biggs.  

The office of the governor said he had activated the State Emergency Operation Center to help mobilize emergency response, which includes the Fire Marshals, National Guard, State Fire Marshal,  The American Red Cross and the State’s health and transportation departments were all alerted.

The place of incidence Rockton is located near Wisconsin Border, in Winnebago County. 150 kilometers Northwest of Chicago. 

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