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Chemical fire draws National Guard, prompts evacuation in Illinois town

Sergio Chapa, Bloomberg News on

Published in News & Features

A massive fire at a chemical plant in northern Illinois spurred the governor to deploy the National Guard to the area as local residents were evacuated. No injuries have been reported.

The industrial fire broke out early Monday morning at a lubricants plant operated by Chemtool, owned by a unit of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. The blaze, burning in Rockton, continued to send a thick plume of black smoke into the sky in the late afternoon.

Residents are being evacuated within a 2-mile radius from the plant and asked to wear face masks as a precaution to protect themselves from the smoke. Gov. J.B. Pritzker activated the state’s National Guard on Monday afternoon and deployed emergency vehicles to support local authorities.

The state’s environmental protection agency and Illinois Emergency Management Agency, IEMA, also sent crews to the area.

The National Guardsmen will be supporting efforts to perform environmental testing and monitoring, company officials told Bloomberg in an emailed statement.


“Additional specialized emergency response teams are expected shortly at the site,” plant officials said in an email. “They will work alongside local emergency responders to extinguish the fire and limit the impact on the community.”

Opened in 2008, the plant specializes in making industrial fluids, greases and lubricants and was acquired by Lubrizol, a Berkshire Hathaway Company, in 2013, according to Chemtool’s website

“We are working with experts and government agencies on environmental air and water monitoring,” plant officials said.

“To-date, test results do not show any 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.”

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