Massive chemical plant explosion prompts evacuations in Illinois

Massive chemical plant explosion prompts evacuations in Illinois


Residents were ordered to evacuate after a ferocious fire broke out at a Chemtool plant in Rockton, Illinois. Nancy Chen has the latest.

Video Transcript

MAJOR GARRETT: Tonight evacuation orders remain in effect near a chemical plant in northern Illinois, after an explosion and ferocious fire that is still burning. CBS’s Nancy Chen reports tonight from Rockton, Illinois.


NANCY CHEN: The explosion at this chemical plant, northwest of Chicago, happened shortly after 7:00 AM. It sent a huge ball of flames and thick, black smoke into the air that could be seen as far as a hundred miles away.

KIRK WILSON: We stopped water operations at this point. We stopped suppression. We felt it was in our best interest to let this product burn off.

NANCY CHEN: The chief says the fire could burn for several days. The plant, Chemtool claims, it’s the largest manufacturer of grease products in the country, which are all burning. Investigators believe the air quality, for now, is safe.

KIRK WILSON: Everyone can see the large plume of smoke, but I assure you that there is no danger at ground level at the plant.

NANCY CHEN: Investigators are unsure how the fire got started, but said about 70 employees working at the time were able to escape uninjured.

LINDSEY OSWALD: We opened our back sliding glass door and just saw, like, the willows of smoke come across.

NANCY CHEN: Businesses and residents within a mile of the fire had to be evacuated.

LAURA BUFFUM: I wasn’t that alarmed until more and more explosions started occurring. And you could now see lit fire material raining down.

NANCY CHEN: Investigators from the Environmental Protection Agency tell CBS News they have a team conducting air monitoring at the site. In the meantime, local officials are advising people three miles around the plant to wear a mask while outdoors. Major?

MAJOR GARRETT: Nancy Chen, thank you.

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