ROCKTON, Ill. (WTVO) _- Flames have been burning at Rockton’s Chempool plant since around 7:00 Monday morning.
Although the flames are dying down, firefighters say the battle is far from over. Around 70 employees who were inside quickly evacuated the facility. One of those workers was Scott.
He described the experience to Eyewitness News just a few hours after the plant went up in flames.
Scott says he has been working at Chemtool for the past five years and says the company tries to practice evacuation drills at least twice per year.
“On my end of the building, we didn’t even see any smoke inside the building. They got us out of there that fast. But then once we were outside, within 10 minutes, probably within five minutes, you could see the smoke starting to come through the roof, and then it really started going,” said Scott.
None of the workers were hurt but fire investigators tell us one firefighter was injured and is expected to be OK.
More than 150 residents and businesses within a 1-mile radius of the plant were also strongly encouraged to evacuate as a result of the fire.
“I assure you that there is no danger at ground level at the plant, but just for a precautionary measure we decided that it was in the best interest of community safety that we evacuated the area,” said Rockton Fire Chief Kirk Wilson.
Chief Wilson says the plant could continue burning for the next several days. He explains that there’s only so much that firefighters can do at this point.
“The main thing is that we don’t want an environmental nightmare to occur, and the reason we can, that would cause that is by the use of water streams. So we stopped water operations at this point, we stopped secretion, we felt it was in our best interest to let this product burn off,” he said.
There is currently an open OSHA investigation for the Chemtool Plant that opened from a complaint on May 20, 2021.
There was a previous complaint regarding health and safety back in March of 2012, but the case was closed two months later.
See a statement from Chemtool below:
Additional specialized emergency response resources have arrived at our Chemtool site in Rockton, Illinois. They will be diligently working alongside local emergency response to extinguish the fire and limit the impact on the community. We will provide an update as soon as the fire has been extinguished. We do not have an estimate on timing at this juncture.
The precautionary evacuation of residents in a one-mile radius of the site remains in effect, under the direction of local emergency response. Lubrizol health and safety experts are completing a thorough analysis of all materials burned. We are working with third-party experts and government agencies on environmental air and water monitoring. We are not aware of any test results that show health risk other than the short-term irritation one would normally experience in the presence of smoke. We will continue to complete additional testing and have released all product data information to local authorities.
The Chemtool site has been safely operating in Rockton since 2008, employing ~200 employees who support manufacturing of industrial fluids and finished greases used in a variety of lubrication applications. As previously confirmed, the team members on site at the onset of the fire exited the facilities safely without injury.
We will work with local authorities to assist them in determining the cause of the fire. We regret the disruption to area residents and are grateful to our employees, first responders and safety forces who have responded to this incident.