SOUTH BELOIT (WREX) — An industrial firefighting crew experienced with battling refinery fires will attack the Chemtool fire with heavy foam. The fire at the industrial lubricant plant in Rockton started early Monday morning. It’s been allowed to burn ever since, rather than risking polluting the nearby Rock River and causing greater environmental damage.
Kirk Wilson, Fire Chief for Rockton Fire Protection District, laid out the plan to attack the fire for the community and for the media during a morning news conference.
Wilson said crews from the US Fire Pump company from Louisiana have dug trenches along the west side of the Chemtool to act as a block to any material that might go into the Rock River.
He said the Environmental Protection Agency is now placing absorbent booms in the Rock River, just in case any material gets beyond the trenches. Those booms should be in place by 11 a.m. Tuesday.
Wilson said, “this is strictly for precautionary measures but we want to make sure all that is in place before we start to do the fire fight. The objective for US Fire Pumps is to apply a blanket of foam on the burned areas and to extinguish the still burning half million gallons of oil that’s still burning.”
When the foaming process begins, the color of the smoke plume will change. Wilson said that when the smoke plume diminishes and authorities are sure that air quality is good at ground level, then they can start looking at bringing our residents back into their homes. He said he would not speculate on when that evacuation order will be lifted.
About the company brought in to fight the fire Wilson said, “They are good at what they do. That’s why they’re here.”