ROCKTON, Ill. (WTVO) — Neighbors living within a mile of the Chemtool facility were evacuated Monday. Fire investigators say families can’t return while air and water levels are being monitored.
Those we spoke with say they don’t know when they can go home.
“When you hear that the chemical factory that’s in your backyard is on fire you’re not quite sure if it’s going to explode so there was no time to think at that moment it was just we got to get out of the house,” said Rockton resident Stephanie McGuire.
Stephanie McGuire and her family rushed out of their Rockton home Monday morning.
“We saw large ash falling from the sky and at that point, I thought we should probably leave town. And we headed down to Rockford where my mom lives,” she said. “The only thing that we grabbed was our dog and so we have no technology, no medicine we have none of the daily essentials that we need.”
While some were able to find shelter with family or friends, others relied on the evacuation center at Roscoe Middle School.
Patrick Mira-Contreras and his brother were among those that stayed the night at the school.
“Most of my family is far away so I don’t really have much of a social net to rely on so I’m just going to stay here,” said Mira-Contreras.
Both McGuire and Mira-Contreras tell us they need to get back home to pick up important medicine. But the Winnebago County Health Department says that isn’t an option.
“We’re calling it a hot zone for a reason because we don’t know how safe it is to return,” said Health Director Sandra Martell. “We dealt with individuals who needed medication last night. We take care of that within the shelter itself.”
For now, both families are just looking forward to when they can safely return home.
“If you don’t have a place or if it’s going to affect your financial situation don’t be afraid to ask for help,” Mira-Contreras said.
“My husband and I know that we won’t be able to come back into the house and stay which is OK. We’re ok with that we just want the fire to get contained,” McGuire added.
Officials say the school will remain open until it is declared safe for residents to go back into their homes. During Tuesday’s 5:00 p.m. briefing, Dr. Sandra Martell says the evacuation will last at least one more night.