Massive Fire at Ill. Chemical Plant Injures Firefighter as Experts Fear It Could Burn for Days
An industrial fire that officials say will likely burn for days broke out at an Illinois grease manufacturer on Monday, prompting dozens of evacuations and injuring one firefighter.
The blaze broke out around 7 a.m. at Chemtool, a company that makes oil-based lubricants in Rockton, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
Approximately 70 Chemtool employees were successfully evacuated from the scene, though one firefighter was treated for injuries, Rockton Fire Chief Kirk Wilson said, according to ABC affiliate WTVO.
An employee identified only as Scott told the outlet he was at work Monday when someone yelled, "Fire!" and the alarms went off, prompting an evacuation that went smoothly.
"There's a lot 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," he reportedly said.
The Rockton Police Department issued a statement ordering everyone within a one-mile radius of the blaze to evacuate, affecting about 150 residents and businesses, according to Wilson.
The police chief said that while air quality tests have determined there is no danger to air quality, the Illinois Department of Public Health is still asking people to wear a mask if they're within three miles of the site, as Chemtool sorted lead, antifreeze, nitrogen and sulfuric acid, among other chemicals, according to WTVO.
Firefighters have stopped spraying the blaze with water to try and reduce the risk of runoff and contamination of waterways, Wilson reportedly said at a press conference.
"We don't want an environmental nightmare to occur. At this time, it's in our best interest to let this product burn off," he said, according to the Sun-Times. "We're thinking this will be a several-day event."
In a statement, Lubrizol, which owns Chemtool, said that health and safety experts are "completing a thorough analysis of all materials burned."
"We are not aware of any test results that show health risk other than the short-term irritation one would normally experience in the presence of smoke," the statement read. "We will continue to complete additional testing and have released all product data information to local authorities."
The statement did not identify a cause for the fire, though an employee told WTVO that it seemed as though a pipe pumping hot grease broke.