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Firefighter injured, mandatory evacuation in Rockton from fire at Chemtool facility

According to the Rockton Fire Chief, an area within a one-mile radius of the Chemtool plant in Rockton is under a mandatory, full-scale evacuation.
Multiple fire crews are at the scene of a structure fire at Chemtool on Prairie Hill Road in...
Multiple fire crews are at the scene of a structure fire at Chemtool on Prairie Hill Road in Rockton this morning.(WIFR)
Updated: Jun. 14, 2021 at 7:38 AM CDT
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ROCKTON, Ill. (WIFR) - One firefighter was injured and several fire crews are at the scene of a structure fire at Chemtool on Prairie Hill Road in Rockton Monday morning.

Around 7 a.m. multiple area fire departments were called to 1165 Prairie Hill Rd. in Rockton for reports of smoke showing at Chemtool Incorporated. Some neighbors reported hearing small explosions and fire burns with smoke being seen for miles.

According to the Rockton Fire Chief, an area within a one-mile radius of the Chemtool plant in Rockton is under a mandatory, full-scale evacuation.

Those within the evacuation zone map, head to Rockton Middle School and Roscoe Middle School, according to the Village of Rockton and the Rockton Police Department.

All residents and businesses within a one-mile radius of Chemtool are directed to evacuate to Roscoe Middle School at 6121 Elevator Rd. immediately, according to an emergency alert sent out to mobile devices. Williams Tree Farm and Stephen Mack School have shifted their evacuees to Roscoe Middle School.

Rockton Fire Chief Kirk Wilson said crews are letting the fire burn itself out, rather than pouring any more water on it, out of concern about chemical runoff into the nearby Rock River. Wilson said it could take a matter of days for the fire to completely burn itself out.

“That’s the best thing that we can do right now,” Wilson said. “The main thing is that we don’t want an environmental nightmare to occur, and the reason that we would cause that is by the use of water streams. So we stopped water operations at this point.”

Wilson said crews also have been conducting air quality tests, and have determined there is no danger to air quality at ground level.

“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 interests of community safety that we evacuated the area,” he said.

Wilson said the fire was already burning through the roof of the plant when the first crews arrived, and at that point there was no stopping it. He said the plant already has been “pretty much consumed” by the fire.

“This was a fast-moving fire. It was wind-driven,” he said.

Here is a statement from The Lubrizol Corporation, which owns the Chemtool facility in Rockton.

“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. As a precaution, authorities have evacuated residents in a one-mile radius of the site.

We do not yet know what caused this incident, but we will be working with local authorities and with our own risk management team to determine what happened and identify any corrective actions. We will share more details as they are known. We are grateful to our employees, first responders and safety forces responding to this incident,” Alicia Gauer, Senior Director, Global Communications for the Lubrizol Corporation said.

Statement in response to the event at the Chemtool site in Rockton.
Statement in response to the event at the Chemtool site in Rockton.(The Lubrizol Corporation, a Berkshire Hathaway company)

1 mile radius of Chem Tool on Prairie Hill Rd

Posted by Rockton Police on Monday, June 14, 2021

Doctors are recommending that people around the Rockford Region wear a mask all day today and possibly tomorrow to protect themselves from the chemicals in the air from the Chemtool fire in Rockton. At this time, it is unclear what caused the fire and if there are any hazardous chemicals involved.

The Village of Rockton asks the public to avoid Rt. 2 and E. Rockton Road so first responders from other communities can quickly respond to the fire.

“Please do your part in helping fight this fire. No landscape watering today and any unnecessary water use,” according to the Village of Rockton.

Salvation Army staff and volunteers are responding to the Chemtool fire, sending a mobile feeding unit, including a field kitchen and rapid response unit to provide meals, snacks and beverages to as many as 200 responders, according to the Salvation Army of Winnebago County. Teams are prepared to assist for up to three days.

Frisellabrations, on Yale Bridge in South Beloit, is opening their doors for anyone evacuated who would like shelter and AC.

The Rockford Fire Department told WIFR they are fully aware and are monitoring the situation. Rockford fire officials are recommending people in the area to stay inside (no mandatory order at this time) or to do what they feel comfortable with.

This is a developing story. Stay with 23 News as updates become available.

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