The morning of June 14, 2021 started normally for the residents of Rockton, Illinois, but was quickly disrupted by an explosion at a Chemtool Inc. plant.
The explosion prompted the city fire department to order a mandatory evacuation of a one-mile radius of the area. This includes 150 residential homes. Although there is an ongoing investigation as to what caused the fire, there is no reported cause as of this time.
What is currently burning are a mix of different lubricants and greases Chemtool manufactures, but the Rockton Fire Chief Kirk Wilson says he is most worried about the potential “environmental nightmare” the community could encounter if any of the oil based lubricants the factory was producing ran off into Rock River. The river is only roughly 300 meters west of the explosion site.
Another large concern for the fire department is the large plume of smoke that is currently moving southeast from the explosion site. Although the deployed hazmat team said there were no issues with the quality of air at ground level, toxic air quality still remains a potential concern. All 70 employees of the plant were able to escape without harm, although one firefighter suffered minor injuries.
The Lubrizol Corporation, which owns Chemtool Inc. sent out its thanks to first responders, saying “At approximately 7 a.m. today, local emergency personnel responded to a fire at the Lubrizol Corporation’s Chemtool Facility in Rockton, Ill. We have confirmed all on site are safe and accounted for. Our concern right now is for the safety of all our employees and the surrounding community.” They went on to add “We will share more details as they are known. We are grateful to our employees, first responders and safety forces responding to this incident.”
As of this time, the fire department has ceased all water-based firefighting efforts inside of the plant, and have decided to let the rest of the chemical “burn off.” The burn off is expected to last for several days, keeping personnel on the scene and families out of their homes. Both Rockton Fire Department and Lubrizol have said they will release more details as to why the explosion happened as they are discovered.