Chemtool Plant Fire Response Informed by HYSPLIT

A massive chemical fire started on Monday, June 12, 2021 at the Chemtool plant in Rockton, Illinois. The nature of the chemical fire and the presence of nearby waterways have made fire suppression a challenge, with emergency response lasting for days. Over 45 different fire departments have responded to the event so far, aided by NOAA WFO, the EPA and a variety of Illinois state agencies and the National Guard. Smoke plumes were so large that they were visible from GOES 15, as well as on weather radars.

Local agencies ordered mandatory evacuations for residents within a one mile radius were ordered, followed by mask requests for those within a three mile radius. Evacuations were ordered in the immediate area due to the nature of chemicals contained at the plant, which manufactures grease and lubricant. In addition, residents were warned not to pick up debris that falls from the sky.

HYSPLIT models were run at three hour intervals as the fire surged and waned throughout Monday as new explosions erupted. NOAA WFO support will continue throughout the week, and EPA air quality monitors have been deployed to the area.

By Friday, June 19, the evacuation order was lifted but air quality monitoring by EPA continued throughout the weekend. Flare ups of particulate exceedances continued, and  EPA will continue to conduct air monitoring near the fire and oversee cleanup of the site.

updated June 21, 2021.

Fire Conditions at the north end of the ChemTool Plant (image courtesy US EPA).

Remains of the plant following the ChemTool plant fire. (Image courtesy US EPA)

NOAA GOES Satellite Captures Smoke Plume from ChemTool Fire. Click for Animated Gif.