Automobile

Supplier Chemtool’s plant in Illinois destroyed by explosion, fire

An explosion caused a large fire to break out early Monday morning at a Chemtool Inc. lubricant manufacturing plant in northern Illinois, prompting evacuations and leaving the future of the facility in question as the fire continued to burn as of Tuesday morning, according to local reports.

All 70 employees on-site at the Rockton, Ill., plant evacuated without injuries, fire officials and Chemtool confirmed.

The cause of the explosion and fire was under investigation and still undetermined as of Tuesday morning. Chemtool is a manufacturer and supplier of industrial rust prevention and grease products to a variety of industries, including automotive.

A spokesman for Lubrizol Corp., Chemtool’s parent company, said the situation at the plant was evolving.

“As with any large-scale event like this one, we are in communication with our customers and are sharing updates as they become available,” spokesman Cody Adams said in an email to Automotive News.

Adams also said Lubrizol expects a total loss of its manufacturing capabilities at the facility due to extensive damage. Lubrizol did not clarify which automotive clients are supplied by the Chemtool plant.

“Additional specialized emergency response resources have arrived at our Chemtool site in Rockton, Illinois,” Lubrizol said in a Monday evening update statement. “They will be diligently working alongside local emergency response to extinguish the fire and limit the impact on the community. We will provide an update as soon as the fire has been extinguished. We do not have an estimate on timing at this juncture.”

Lubrizol said its health and safety experts were analyzing what materials were burned.

In a Tuesday morning update, Lubrizol said pay and benefits will continue for employees while the company works through the situation. It also said counseling support is available for them.

Fire details

Rockton fire officials were dispatched around 7 a.m. Monday to the plant. They reported seeing flames shooting through the roof when they arrived.

Officials ordered a mandatory evacuation for residents and businesses within 1 mile of the site, a precautionary measure because of the significant clouds of smoke coming from the smoldering plant.

As of Monday, there was no threat to ground-level air quality, according to Kirk Wilson, Rockton’s fire chief, who said he consulted with a hazmat team.

The building was “pretty much consumed,” Wilson said at a Monday news conference.

More than 40 agencies from the northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin regions responded to the fire. It has the potential to be a “several-day event,” according to Wilson.

One firefighter received a minor injury, he said.

Firefighters halted using water to put out the fire and said they will instead let it burn off, fearing runoff could carry chemical pollutants to nearby water sources.

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