Rockton fire burns for 2nd day, evacuation still in effect, roads closed in area

A chemical fire at Chemtool Inc., in Rockton north of Rockford that generated a plume of smoke large enough to be seen on weather radar continued to burn for a second day Tuesday, causing continued evacuations and road closures, officials say.

All employees were able to get out of the plant quickly and no injuries were reported among workers, Wilson said. A firefighter was hospitalized and evaluated for breathing difficulty, and later sent home, he said. The chief said there were 70 workers, but company officials said there were closer to 50.

“It’s been a very catastrophic day for our community,” Wilson said at a news conference Monday afternoon. “We’ve lost a very well-known business, and our hearts are with those employees who are currently unemployed.”

Homes and businesses within a 1-mile radius of Chemtool were ordered to evacuate, Rockton police said. Residents within 3 miles of the fire were advised to wear face masks outdoors, and handle debris from the sky with shovels and gloves and keep it separate from household waste by Winnebago County public health officials.

All nonemergency traffic has been restricted on Kocher Street, Blackhawk Blvd. between Route 2 and North Bridge Street, Dingham Drive, Central Drive, Kile Drive, Wright Drive, Watts Avenue, N. Blackhawk Blvd. between Central Drive and Prairie Hill Road, Prairie Hill Road between South Bluff Road and Route 2, Rockton Police said in a Facebook post.

Residents who work in these areas have been advised to check in with employers before attempting to go to work.

Those affected and in need of help can call the Red Cross 24/7 disaster hotline at 877-597-0747.

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