This photo taken in South Beloit show the plume of billowing black smoke that blanketed the area during the Chemtool plant fire in Rockton Monday morning.

By Melanie Bradley


A massive fire broke out at the Chemtool plant in Rockton on Prairie Hill Road at about 6:45 a.m. on Monday morning.

Rockton Fire Chief Kirk Wilson said when firefighters arrived on the scene, fire was already shooting through the roof, and that there was no stopping it. The structure was a total loss.

The company produces lubricants and grease, which made it impossible to stop with water and exceptionally volatile. Several explosions were heard coming from inside the structure.

Employees, who practice safety drills on a regular basis, were able to escape the building with no injuries reported. Billowing black smoke could be seen for miles, as far as DeKalb County and Delevan, Wis., with debris coming down in towns nearby.

Chief Wilson said there were a lot of pallets and cardboard in the building and the debris was likely to be that material.

One of the main concerns was the smoke and what kinds of chemicals were in the thick black smoke. The area was evacuated for one mile around the fire. Residents in the immediate are were first evacuated to Stephen Mack Middle School, and then to Roscoe Middle School when the smoke got thicker at the Stephen Mack site.

Chief Wilson said they were concerned about chemical runoff into the nearby Rock River.

“We’re letting the chemicals burn off to reduce the chance of runoff to the river,” he said during a press conference at 11:30 a.m. at South Beloit High School.

Approximately 150 firefighters responded to the fire from departments in northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin. One firefighter was injured, but the extent of the injuries was unknown at the time of this writing. The cause had not been determined at the time of the press conference.

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