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Pritzker deploys National Guard to fight massive chemical fire near Rockford

Monday, Jun 14, 2021 - Posted by Rich Miller

* This morning…

* Press release…

Gov. Pritzker Activates State Emergency Operation Center, Deploys National Guard to Respond to Chemical Fire in Winnebago County

Residents Within Two-Mile Radius Evacuated, Encouraged to Wear Masks Out of an Abundance of Caution

State Officials from Multiple Agencies Coordinating with Local Authorities to Keep People Safe

ROCKTON – Governor JB Pritzker has activated the State Emergency Operation Center to mobilize emergency response personnel and operational facilities to monitor a large chemical fire in Winnebago County. Upon notification of the emergency, the State notified authorities in Winnebago, Stephenson and McHenry counties. The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) and Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) dispatched crews to the area to assist local jurisdictions to expedite assistance and resources. The Illinois State Emergency Operations Center in Springfield was activated and members of the Illinois National Guard and mobile response vehicles were dispatched to the area

Out of an abundance of caution, local authorities have evacuated a two-mile radius around the Rockton facility. Residents are encouraged to seek shelter at Roscoe Middle School, 6121 Elevator Road in Roscoe. State health officials are recommending that residents within the evacuation zone to northern part of Rockford utilize the use of masks or face coverings for the time being. This is to prevent the inhalation of particulate matter (soot). As this emergency progresses, it is important for residents to stay informed by monitoring local media for changing instructions.

“I am monitoring this situation closely and will make all resources available to the surrounding communities as we work to keep people safe,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “Teams from multiple state agencies are on the ground and coordinating closely with local authorities and we will continue to make additional information available as soon we have it. To those impacted, please listen to guidance from emergency officials and know that the state of Illinois is doing everything possible to protect you and your loved ones.”

Shortly after 7:00 a.m., a large fire broke out at Chemtool, 1165 Prairie Hill Road in Rockton. Chemtool is the largest manufacturer of grease in the United States. Chemtool participates in the Tier II program. Tier II is an annual federal report that is mandatory for companies that store hazardous materials. This report is used by state and federal authorities to track and enforce rules related to the storing of hazardous materials in a facility. It also helps local authorities in the event of an emergency, such as a fire.

Personnel from the following State agencies and organizations are responding to this emergency:

    Illinois Emergency Management Agency
    Illinois State Police
    Illinois Department of Transportation
    Illinois Department of Public Health
    Illinois Environmental Protection Agency
    Office of State Fire Marshal
    Illinois National Guard
    Mutual Aid Box Alarm System (MABAS)
    American Red Cross
    Salvation Army

In addition, the Illinois Emergency Management Agency has activated its Radiological Emergency Assessment Center (REAC) and the Illinois National guard Civil Support Team to monitor the environment to establish air monitoring to validate plume modeling. These teams are used to make environmental recommendations to keep the general public safe.

The plant sits next to the Rock River, so they’re letting it burn for fear that contaminated water could flow into the river.

…Adding… More…


  1. - stateworkerworkingfromhome - Monday, Jun 14, 21 @ 2:05 pm:


  2. - Huh? - Monday, Jun 14, 21 @ 2:09 pm:

    The only other plume of smoke that rivals this on was the 1987 Polk Brothers warehouse fire.

  3. - Pot calling kettle - Monday, Jun 14, 21 @ 2:12 pm:

    The site is also a Superfund site nearing completion of clean-up. (The Superfund status is due to prior use of the site by Beloit Corp.) According to the USEPA info, the current use (by Chemtool) is packaging and distribution of lubricants (not manufacturing).

    USEPA Envirofacts info:

    Superfund site info:

  4. - DuPage Saint - Monday, Jun 14, 21 @ 2:12 pm:

    I wonder how many plants that make hazardous materials or store hazardous materials there are in Illinois and how many that are close to residential areas? Plus add in all the trains carrying such materials. I am surprised more accidents don’t happen not to mention some nut case out there that know explosives. Good look to first responders and clean up crew

  5. - OneMan - Monday, Jun 14, 21 @ 2:19 pm:

    When I was a kid one of the chemical plants in our town had a big fire, made the national news.

    They asked the chief of the local volunteer FD why they called in the FD from the Whiting Refinery to help out.

    “We have foam, we don’t have that much foam”

    Not being snarky here, wonder what impact this will have on grease supplies.

  6. - Amalia - Monday, Jun 14, 21 @ 2:31 pm:

    absolutely terrifying including for those in the path of the smoke.

  7. - JS Mill - Monday, Jun 14, 21 @ 2:38 pm:

    We are more than an hour south of the firs and we can see the smoke ploom very clearly, pretty flat country up here.

  8. - Pot calling kettle - Monday, Jun 14, 21 @ 2:53 pm:

    ==I wonder how many plants that make hazardous materials or store hazardous materials there are in Illinois and how many that are close to residential areas? ==

    The short answer is: more than you imagine.

    The USEPA’s Enviromapper is a great place to start looking:

    1) Enter your zip code
    2) Click on the magnifying glass or hit “return”
    3) Zoom in on your house
    4) Click on the “Search Envirofacts” menu and select “Search by program”
    5) Select the options to map on the menu on the left hand side. Each time you select, the map will display the sites in that category on the map with a green square or a green circle with a number. (You may need to wait for the sites to show up on the map.)
    6) If it is a green circle with a number, click on the circle to zoom in further. You may need to do this several times before you see a green rectangle.
    7) Click on a green rectangle to see the site name.
    8) Click on the site name to get more information about that facility.

    You can search the IEPA Bureau of Land’s database here:

    And then, there are the underground storage tanks for gasoline and other petroleum products. The list of known leaking tanks is here:

    On top of that are old sites that have not been previously identified…

  9. - mastershakeman - Monday, Jun 14, 21 @ 3:02 pm:

    I was heading to Rockton about 9:30 am this morning and saw the flames come up over the treeline when that explosion happened. At first I’d thought it was a prairie fire behaving oddly but didn’t know what it was. Ended up driving through the town, under the path of the smoke which was dark enough I considered using headlights.

    It is disappointing that Winnebago County wasn’t coordinated enough to block off more of the area. The road right by the fire was blocked off, but people were walking around the sidewalks and numerous cars in Rockton, with no emergency alerts on phones or anything else. Hoping they (as well as me, frankly) didn’t get exposed to anything truly dangerous.

  10. - FormerParatrooper - Monday, Jun 14, 21 @ 3:11 pm:

    Godspeed to everyone near there.

    I am in Houston and it is national news. People here are talking about it.

  11. - Liandro - Monday, Jun 14, 21 @ 3:14 pm:

    All over the local news and facebook feeds; people finding explosion debris 2 miles away apparently. Citizens being advised to stay indoors, but some are leaving the area for a bit as a precaution.

  12. - Pot calling kettle - Monday, Jun 14, 21 @ 3:27 pm:

    The hazy black smoke can be seen from my home…I live almost 30 miles south of I-80. I’m guessing most folks in northern and northeastern Illinois will be able to see it. It is a long trail of dark haze across the sky.

  13. - very old soil - Monday, Jun 14, 21 @ 4:30 pm:

    Company that owns the plant is owned by Berkshire Hathaway.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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