Cause of Rockton Chemtool fire ruled accidental, says fire chief

State News

ROCKTON, Ill. (WTVO) — Rockton Fire Chief Kirk Wilson says an investigation into the cause of last week’s Chemtool plant fire was accidental, and released a timeline of events that led up to the explosion.

The Chemtool plant, at 1165 Prairie Hill Road, caught fire and exploded on Monday, June 14th.

According to a statement released by Wilson on Friday:

“On Monday, June 14, a project was underway at the Chemtool / Lubrizol facility to replace insulation on
an elevated heat transfer piping network that was part of the site’s system for heating certain vessels
used in the manufacturing of lubricating greases. This network of piping carried heated mineral oil.

“That morning, an employee of an outside contractor performing the insulation replacement project was
working in the area of origin. They were utilizing a scissor lift to access the elevated heat transfer piping
network.

“Shortly before 07:00 hours while the employee of the outside contractor was working in the area, a
release occurred from the elevated piping. An unknown amount of mineral oil immediately began falling
and pooling on the floor in the area of origin.

“Chemtool operators promptly detected the release and shut down the boiler. They were in the process
of placing containment booms, as well as de-pressuring the heat transfer piping network, when the fire
ignited.

“At the present time, the most credible scenario is that the scissor lift struck a valve or other piece of
piping with sufficient mechanical force to cause the release of mineral oil. The investigation has not yet
determined the source of ignition.”

More than 80 fire departments from across the nation, including an industrial firefighting crew from Louisiana, US Fire Pump, were brought in to help combat the ongoing blaze.

Officials said the fire was fully extinguished on Thursday, June 25th.

Officials said the company stored lead, antifreeze, nitrogen, and sulfuric acid, among other chemicals.

Residents within a one mile radius of Chemtool were asked to evacuate due to possible dangerous chemicals being released. They were allowed to return to their homes one week ago.

Representatives from the Illinois Emergency Management Agency and Chemtool said they will continue to monitor the surrounding environment, including the air, the Rock River and ground water, for contaminants.

Chemtool’s VP of Operations Bill Snyder apologized to the community, saying the impact of the fire is “heartbreaking.”

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