News Huge fires after US chemical plant blast

Huge fires after US chemical plant blast

The first at the Chemtool plant in Illinois sent thick, black smoke high into the air. Photo: AAP
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An explosion at a northern Illinois chemical plant has sparked massive fires that sent flames and huge plumes of black smoke high into the air and debris raining onto the ground, prompting evacuations.

Emergency crews on Monday morning rushed to the scene of the fire near Rockton, northwest of Chicago, at Chemtool Inc, a company that manufactures lubricants, grease products and other fluids.

About 50 employees were present when the plant was evacuated safely, Chemtool’s parent company Lubrizol Corp said.

The thick plumes became so big they were being picked up on weather radar. Wilson said there was “no danger to air quality at ground level”.

Fire officials had ordered a mandatory evacuation of homes and businesses near the plant.

Governor JB Pritzker’s office later expanded the evacuation zone from a 1.6- to a 3.2-kilometre radius “out of an abundance of caution”.

Rockton Fire Department Chief Kirk Wilson said firefighters had stopped using water to extinguish the blaze to prevent an “environmental nightmare” if the run-off were to enter the nearby Rock River.

It could be several days before the fluids that caught fire burned out, he said.