Gov. J.B. Pritzker has issued a disaster proclamation for Grundy County after a massive industrial fire in Morris, Illinois, released toxic fumes into the air, reports ABC7 Chicago.
Hundreds of thousands of pounds of lithium-ion batteries burned in the fire, forcing nearly 5,000 people to evacuate their homes.
Officials evacuated the southeast side of Morris after the fire broke, as toxic fumes and smoke emanated from the building, stemming from as many as 200,000 lithium batteries exploding. They plan to lift the evacuation order by week’s end.
The EPA has placed air quality monitors around the town of Morris, including at the entrance of the building. To date, they have not found any evidence of harmful contaminants in the air.
The Morris Fire Department used 28 tons of Portland cement, an unconventional method, to smother the burning lithium batteries. Before using cement, firefighters tried using a dry chemical to extinguish the fire.
The department will monitor the situation for a couple of weeks.
The order allows the state to expedite additional resources to help Grundy County respond to the disaster.
Morris Mayor Chris Brown said the city was not aware lithium batteries were being stored at the warehouse
“We were unaware of the batteries in the warehouse and only came upon it when the firemen started to do their work and push water onto the fire; they've been taking all the precautions necessary to make sure everything is safe and contained,” he said.
The building owner Jin Zheng reported he was storing supplies in the 70,000-square-foot warehouse because he planned to open a solar power business by year’s end.
Morris officials said any dust settled on items outside residents' homes should be carefully cleaned off.
Visit GrundyCo.org for more information on what to do when returning home.