FILE - Rockton chemical fire

A chemical fire started shortly after 7 a.m. at Chemtool, 1165 Prairie Hill Road in Rockton, state officials said. Chemtool is the largest producer of grease in the nation. Smoke can be seen from miles away on Monday, June 14, 2021.

(The Center Square) – Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Monday activated the State Emergency Operation Center and sent the National Guard in response to a chemical fire in Rockton in Winnebago County near Rockford.

State officials notified authorities in Winnebago, Stephenson and McHenry counties. The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and Illinois Emergency Management Agency sent crews to the area to help local jurisdictions. The governor also activated the Illinois State Emergency Operations Center in Springfield and sent members of the Illinois National Guard with mobile response vehicles to the area, according to a news release.

Local officials have evacuated people within a two-mile radius of the Rockton facility out of caution. Residents were encouraged to seek shelter at Roscoe Middle School, 6121 Elevator Road in Roscoe.

State health officials are recommending that residents within the evacuation zone to northern part of Rockford use masks or face coverings to prevent the inhalation of soot. 

“I am monitoring this situation closely and will make all resources available to the surrounding communities as we work to keep people safe,” Pritzker said in a statement. “Teams from multiple state agencies are on the ground and coordinating closely with local authorities and we will continue to make additional information available as soon we have it. To those impacted, please listen to guidance from emergency officials and know that the state of Illinois is doing everything possible to protect you and your loved ones.”

A chemical fire started shortly after 7 a.m. Monday at Chemtool, 1165 Prairie Hill Road in Rockton, state officials said. Chemtool is the largest producer of grease in the nation.

Personnel from the various state agencies and organizations are responding to the emergency:

  • Illinois Emergency Management Agency
  • Illinois State Police
  • Illinois Department of Transportation
  • Illinois Department of Public Health
  • Illinois Environmental Protection Agency
  • Office of State Fire Marshal
  • Illinois National Guard
  • Mutual Aid Box Alarm System (MABAS)
  • American Red Cross
  • Salvation Army

In addition, the Illinois Emergency Management Agency activated its Radiological Emergency Assessment Center and the Illinois National guard Civil Support Team to monitor the environment to establish air monitoring to validate plume modeling.

The teams are used to make environmental recommendations to keep people safe.

All people on site at Lubrizol Corporation's Chemtool facility in Rockton have been confirmed safe, the Berkshire Hathaway Company said in a statement.

"Our concern right now is for the safety of all our employees and the surrounding community," the company said. "We do not yet know what caused this incident, but we will be working with local authorities and with our own risk management team to determine what happened and identify any corrective actions. We will share more details as they are known."

Lubrizol owns and operates more than 100 manufacturing facilities, sales and technical offices around the world and has about 8,800 employees, according to the company's website.

Regional Editor

Brett Rowland has worked as a reporter in newsrooms in Illinois and Wisconsin. He most recently served as news editor of the Northwest Herald in Crystal Lake, Illinois. He previously held the same position at the Daily Chronicle in DeKalb.