Scores Evacuated As Explosion Rocks Illinois Chemical Plant

LAGOS JUNE 15TH (NEWSRANGERS)-An Illinois chemical plant that manufactures grease and oil caught fire Monday morning, creating a massive conflagration that rained ash and debris as far as 50 miles away, reports said. 

The Rockton Chemtool plant, located close to the Wisconsin border about 100 miles northwest of Chicago, caught fire around 7 a.m., leading to the evacuation of anyone within a one-mile radius due to possible dangerous chemicals being released into the air, FOX 39 reported

“We have confirmed all on site are safe and accounted for. Our concern right now is for the safety of all our employees and the surrounding community. As a precaution, authorities have evacuated residents in a one-mile radius of the site,” Chemtool told the outlet in a statement. 

The conflagration from the chemical plant fire in Rockton, Illinois, could reportedly be seen from 50 miles away.ABC7 Chicago

“We do not yet know what caused this incident, but we will be working with local authorities and with our own risk management team to determine what happened and identify any corrective actions. We will share more details as they are known.”

In total, 70 employees were evacuated from the facility and a single firefighter was injured, Rockton Fire Chief Kirk Wilson said during a news briefing. 

He said the City of Rockford’s HAZMAT team conducted air quality tests and there is currently “no danger” at the ground level but as a precaution, people within a one-mile radius of the facility were “strongly suggested” to evacuate.  

An employee, who identified himself only by his first name Scott, said he’d been at work for less than an hour when he heard someone shout “Fire!” before alarms started blaring. 

“Everybody that got us out of there — they were on top of it. We had plenty of time to get out. Everybody got out. It was pretty well organized,” the worker told the outlet. 

“There’s a lot of grease, oil and fluids in there. It’s gonna burn for a while. If it was going to explode, it would’ve already done it. Those small explosions that everyone’s seeing are drums of fluid or grease.”

Scott said he believes the fire started after one of the pipes that carries hot grease to the ceiling from kettle to kettle broke but Chemtool is yet to confirm if that was the cause.  

He said small emergencies have forced evacuations at the plant in the past but he’s never seen anything at this level.

“This is the worst it’s ever, ever been,” he said.

“We’re just seeing a lot of hard work go up in flames… we’re all scared and wondering what we’re gonna do.”

Enormous dark plumes continued to billow from the facility late Monday morning, raining ash and debris as far away as DeKalb, a town 50 miles south of Rockton, the outlet said.

Chemtool manufactures fluids, lubricants and grease products that are shipped across the globe and currently has an open complaint with the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, records show. 

The complaint is listed as a health violation, not a safety issue, and was filed May 20th but further details weren’t immediately available. 

A resident who lives less than 100 yards from the plant told the outlet he was at work when the blaze started. 

“The center of this plume of smoke is dead-center where my property is,” the resident said. 

“The chemicals that go into that building all day long … [I] have no idea what’s going to happen to the neighborhood.”

Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker said his team is monitoring the situation and his “thoughts are with the first responders fighting this blaze” and all others who were impacted. 

The City of Rockford cautioned residents to stay inside, turn off their air conditioners and close windows and doors if they can see the plumes from the fire. 

Wilson said it’ll probably take several days for the fire to burn off. 

A local middle school has been set up as an evacuation site. 

New York Times

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Posted by on Jun 15 2021. Filed under International, National. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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