‘Please, please be patient with us’: Rockton fire officials advise continued caution for residents as crews work to extinguish Chemtool fire

Chemtool Inc Fire Press Update
Chief Kirk Wilson with the Rockton Fire Protection District shares an update on fire mitigation efforts.

ROCKTON, Ill. — More than 48 hours after Chemtool Inc. went up in flames, local fire officials are asking residents to be patient and vigilant as crews work to assess the environmental hazards and extinguish what’s left of the blaze.

As of Wednesday morning, the one-mile evacuation order and mask recommendation remained in place.

“Please, please be patient with us as this is an ongoing effort,” Chief Kirk Wilson with the Rockton Fire Protection District said during a Wednesday morning press conference. “Again, we have several agencies not only our local government, but state and federal government as well that are on scene, and we’re working very diligently in a collaborative effort to mitigate this incident.”

Wilson said precautions taken Tuesday, with the help of an industrial firefighting team, have so far prevented any toxic chemicals from leaking into nearby waterways, but questions about air quality still remained.

Winnebago County health officials were still examining EPA air quality data early Wednesday to determine if conditions were safe for folks to return home. Wilson added that anyone experiencing respiratory issues believed to be tied to the fire or smoke should contact their physician or visit a hospital.

The fire itself has also been contained, but parts of the 230,000-square-foot building were still burning as of Wednesday morning.

“We talked about this product burning off for about 7 days. We reduced that dramatically, especially with the outside industrial firefighting crew that came in to support us,” Wilson said. “So, we’re hoping, we’re hoping soon, like I said, I can’t speculate on a time, but we’re hoping soon that we’re going to have this mitigated.”

Officials are expected to share another update at Noon on Wednesday.