Chemical Plant Fire Burns Toxic Smoke for Hours - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

Chemical Plant Fire Burns Toxic Smoke for Hours

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A chemical plant caught fire early Saturday morning and was still burning as of late Saturday night. Thick, black smoke shot into the sky and was visible for more than 20 miles away. It all started just before 6 a.m. at the Euclid Chemical Company in rural Sheffield, Illinois. Because of the toxic nature of the smoke, fire fighters quickly had to move to a safe distance and let the building burn.

Twenty-two fire departments, seven ambulance services, and three haz-mat teams responded. Resins and epoxies used to make concrete products fed the fire leading crews to quickly discover it was a force to be reckoned with. "Haz-mat arrived and decided to pull everyone back to the staging area and let the fire burn," said Chief Timothy Shipp with the Bureau Fire Department.

Seven fire fighters were sent to a nearby hospital after having troubles breathing. The wind carried the plume of smoke and spread it several miles wide. One family nearby found out it was headed their way with a heads up from their faithful companion. "I heard the dog barking and by the bark new something was going on, so I came out to see and it was just black some rolling," said Julie Stark, "you could smell the chemicals in it but thankfully it was going up and over where we live."

Police set up a perimeter and shut down roads within a mile of the plant. They evacuated workers at a nearby Michlig Agricenter and urged residents in the area within the path of the smoke to stay inside. "We asked people to stay in their homes and close all windows and doors," said Shipp. Crews had tankers on stand-by while they waited for hours for the Illinois and federal EPA to give word on whether they should continue to let it burn or risk trying to salvage the building.

Representatives with Euclid Chemical Company were on site working with fire fighters and informing them of the nature and amount of chemicals they were dealing with. The company employs 15 people and began operations in 2004. The fire is suspected to have started in the west side storage building. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

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