Evacuation zone near Chemtool Inc. fire extended 1 more day

Rockton Chemtool Fire Presser June 15

ROCKTON, Wis. — Winnebago County officials are continuing their evacuation from the area near the Chemtool Inc. plant in Rockton for at least one more night. Many residents are still unsure when they’ll be able to return home.

During a Tuesday evening press conference, Dr. Sandra Martell of the Winnebago County Health Department said the 1-mile evacuation and 3-mile masking recommendation will remain in place as crews work to measure the levels of potentially harmful chemicals thrown into the air by the fire’s smoke plume.

Dr. Martell said initial measurements show levels of those toxic chemicals are lower than national standards.

“Out of extreme caution we are going to continue to hold the zone of evacuation for one additional night at this time,” Dr. Martell said. “And the reason for that is the inversion layer. We talked about this yesterday: As the temperature drops, as the atmosphere layer comes down, we really want to get and see do those numbers hold well overnight.”

Officials are actively using more than 30 devices to monitor for volatile organic compounds, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide and other potentially harmful chemicals.

Both state and federal Environmental Protection Agency teams are in Rockton measuring the air quality around the site of the fire.

Officials also said they have not detected any visible runoff into the Rock River — a sign they said shows fire crews have done an excellent job at containing the fire and its potentially harmful byproducts. That’s likely in part due to help provided by an industrial firefighting team that responded to the scene Tuesday to help contain the fire and mitigate any environmental issues.

The fire at the Chemtool plant in Rockton, just across the Wisconsin state border, started at about 7 a.m. Monday and oil in the plant continued to burn through Tuesday. Flames were still burning as of 6 p.m., officials said.