Chemtool fire evacuees uncertain when they can go home

ROCKTON, Il.– A fire at the Chemtool facility that filled the air with plumes of black smoke Monday was a much different scene nearly 24 hours later. Smoke was still visible on the horizon but much of it dissipated overnight.

Fire officials announced at a press conference Tuesday that it could take up to seven days for the fire to fully extinguish.

Rockton resident Patrick Mira-Contreras has lived in his home close to the facility for the past five years and said he’s never seen anything like it before. Aside from it being the first time he’s witnessed a fire this close to home, it was also his first time being displaced from his home. He stayed the night at the evacuation center set up at Roscoe Middle School.

“It wasn’t too bad of an experience, just uncomfortable,” Mira-Contreras said. “I’m a big guy so sleeping in a small cot is a little uncomfortable.”

The American Red Cross of Illinois Communications Spokesperson Holly Baker said, “This is something that’s disrupting. It’s disruptive of people’s lives.”

Baker said 11 people stayed overnight at the middle school while the rest found alternate food, water and shelter for the night.

“We are going to be here for as long as we need to, for as long as people are forced to be out of their homes,” Baker said.

Baker said the shelter currently has plenty of food and water. Those who want to help can donate to the Red Cross or volunteer in the future, Baker said.

Although the experience isn’t ideal, Mira-Contreras said most of it is out of his control and there’s only one way he’s choosing to handle it.

“I’m just going to enjoy it for what it is and not stress too much,” he said. “I just hope everyone is staying safe. If anyone feels guilty for taking help, don’t because this service is in place for people that need it.”