Herbert Chrome Plant Fire Prompts Evacuation


Emergency crews fight a fire at the US Chrome Corp. plant in Herbert after several explosions.

Neighbors say they heard a series of explosions and then smoke shooting from the plant.  Robin Slack lives just across the street. She describes the noise as loud explosions coming from the Herbert, IL chrome plant.

“Three large big booms,” said Slack. “First, I checked the upstairs to make sure nothing fell in my house.”

“Then I looked out the window and I saw a bunch of yellow smoke coming out the top. [I] called 911 and they said they already dispatched people.”

Another neighbor sent Eyewitness News pictures after the explosion. One shows yellow smoke coming out of the plant’s windows, which forced all eight employees inside to evacuate.
The company said a ‘chromium cake’, which is a mixture of chemicals, caught fire. Fire officials say they made sure they took the right approach to put it out.

“This particular one, we looked at our ERG book, our Emergency Response Guideline,” said Belvidere Fire Chief Al Hyser. “It said we could use large amounts of water in this particular chemical.”

U.S. Chrome General Manager David Crowley says recent renovations happening inside the building might have played a role in the explosions.

“We were demoing some old tanks that we’re replacing with new tanks,” said Crowley. “Some of the materials that was adhered to the tank, we believe caught fire.”

Fire officials say the weather helped contain the smoke to just one area.

“The wind direction was to our advantage,” said Hyser. “Homes that were to the south, those people were evacuated from their homes.”

Residents say they wanted to make sure everyone in their small town was ok.

“We spread the word pretty quick,” said Todd Humphry, a Herbert resident. “When you only got 17 houses out here, with 70 people, word spreads quickly out here.”

No one was hurt.  No damage estimate is available.

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