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Illinois chemical plant explosion, fire prompt evacuations

ROCKTON, Ill. (WREX/WBNG/AP) — Emergency crews are battling a massive fire at a northern Illinois chemical plant that exploded into flames.

The Monday morning explosion that sent huge plumes of thick black smoke into the air prompted officials to order an evacuation of residents and business to the south of Chemtool Inc., near Rockton.

There were no immediate reports of injuries. The plant that manufactures grease products, lubricants and other fluids. Rockton is located in Winnebago County, near the Wisconsin border, about 95 miles northwest of Chicago.

Chemtool issued the following statement about the fire:

“At approximately 7 a.m. today, local emergency personnel responded to a fire at the Lubrizol Corporation’s Chemtool Facility in Rockton, Ill. We have confirmed all on site are safe and accounted for. Our concern right now is for the safety of all our employees and the surrounding community. As a precaution, authorities have evacuated residents in a one-mile radius of the site.

We do not yet know what caused this incident, but we will be working with local authorities and with our own risk management team to determine what happened and identify any corrective actions. We will share more details as they are known. We are grateful to our employees, first responders and safety forces responding to this incident.

Chemtool’s website says the company “is a premium manufacturer of grease in the Americas.” The company’s corporate headquarters, a research laboratory and one of its production facilities is located in Rockton.

Its products include fluids, lubricants and greases manufactured for a wide variety of purposes. Chemtool serves industries including agriculture, automotive, construction, energy, food, industrial, marine, mining, metalworking and steel industries.

The company was founded in 1963 by James Athans and was initially privately held. Chemtool moved to its current location in Rockton in 2009. It’s been through several ownership changes and was most-recently purchased by the Lubrizol company in 2013.

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