Massive chemical plant fire causes evacuations in Illinois

Published: Jun. 14, 2021 at 11:07 AM EDT|Updated: Jun. 14, 2021 at 4:35 PM EDT
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WINNEBAGO COUNTY, Ill. (WIFR) - The evacuation zone from the fire at an Illinois chemical plant has been extended to a 2-mile radius, and doctors people in the region wear a mask all day Monday.

“Out of an abundance of caution, local authorities have evacuated a two-mile radius around the Rockton facility,” according to Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s office.

One firefighter was injured and several fire crews responded at the scene at the Chemtool plant. Some neighbors reported hearing small explosions and smoke could be seen for miles.

In a statement from The Lubrizol Corporation, which owns the facility, a spokesperson said everyone on site was safe and accounted for.

“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. We are grateful to our employees, first responders and safety forces responding to this incident,” said Alicia Gauer, senior director global communications for Lubrizol.

As of 10:50 a.m., the fire in Rockton has caused smoke to cover the eastern third of Ogle County. The county’s health department asked people to not call 911 except in cases of an emergency.

Doctors said people around the Chemtool plant should wear a mask possibly to Tuesday to protect themselves from the chemicals in the air.

“As a precaution, if you can see the smoke plume from the Chemtool fire, please stay indoors; close your windows and doors; and turn off your air conditioners. If you have a medical emergency, call 911. More information will be coming as our state-wide, coordinated response continues,” according to the city of Rockford Facebook page.

A statement was also released by the Northern Illinois PIO.

“At a news conference this morning, it was stated that at this time there is ‘no danger to air quality at ground level.’ This information is based on an initial limited test of VOCs, or volatile organic compounds, done by local agencies. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is now arriving on scene and working with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and other local partners. They are setting up to do more in-depth testing to measure the impact to air, water and land. We will communicate as soon as we have more information.

“The County Emergency Operations Center is actively tracking the smoke plume and wind direction. The specific area impacted at this time is two miles south of Chemtool. If you are within the one-mile evacuation zone around Chemtool, please evacuate. If you are two miles directly south of Chemtool, please stay indoors as a precaution, close your windows and doors, and turn off your air conditioner/HVAC units. The Illinois Department of Public Health is advising people to wear a mask if they are within the evacuation zone.

“At this time, these recommendations are only for Rockton-area residents. Anyone outside of the Rockton area does not need to take action at this time, but continue to monitor local media outlets for additional information.”

Evacuating residents can go to Roscoe Middle School, according to the Northern Illinois PIO.

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