Rockton fire officials say they now have the upper hand on the massive fire at the Chemtool chemical plant in Rockford, Illinois.
Residents and businesses within two miles of Chemtool Incorporated were ordered to evacuate and advised to relocate to a nearby middle school on Monday due to a chemical fire and explosion large enough to see on weather radar, officials said.
Also on Monday, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced he was activating the state emergency operation center and deploying the National Guard to respond to the chemical fire and advising those in the area to wear masks.
Rockton police alerts rate the fire as severe and warn that it may continue to spread. Fire officials were called to aid in a small fire caused by debris from the Chemtool burning.
“State health officials are recommending that residents within the evacuation zone to northern part of Rockford utilize the use of masks or face coverings for the time being,” according to a news release from Pritzker's office. “This is to prevent the inhalation of particulate matter (soot). As this emergency progresses, it is important for residents to stay informed by monitoring local media for changing instructions.”
Chemtool Incorporated, located in the Rockford, Illinois, area, manufactures grease and other lubricating fluids.
Fire officials reported in a press conference that the oil-based lubricant the plant manufactures may take several days to burn off.
The fire was large enough to register on weather radar, according to the Joliet Weather Center and National Weather Service.
A statement from Lubrizol Corporation, the company that owns Chemtool, confirmed all employees are “safe and accounted for.” Lubrizol said 50 employees were present when the explosion happened. The company promised to share more details as they are known.
One firefighter sustained minor injuries while attempting to extinguish the flames, the department said.