Firefighters say that a lithium battery fire, which began to burn on Tuesday, is still smoldering in Morris, but progress has been made and officials are looking to execute new strategies to put out the blaze.
According to Morris Fire Chief Tracey Steffas, the fire grew in intensity overnight Tuesday and into Wednesday, but crews were on scene throughout.
“Companies on scene monitored and made sure the fire didn’t jump off property and affect any exposures in residential areas,” Steffas said.
Steffas says that the fire has died down considerably since Wednesday morning, but is still giving off toxic smoke.
“We are making headway on it,” Steffas said. “We still have fumes, but nothing like it was this morning.”
Unable to use their regular fire hoses, firefighters are using unique techniques to put out the blaze. Firefighters will continue to use so-called “high flow water” to help cool off the batteries, and then plan to smother it with cement.
“We’re going to cover it with cement and smother that fire,” Steffas said. “Once we put cement down, we hope that’s going to smother it.”
The use of the high flow water led to questions about water runoff, but the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency has put monitors into use around Morris to ensure that water supplies remain safe, and that runoff doesn’t make its way into the nearby Illinois River.
Similar devices were recently used around a chemical plant fire, which erupted in Rockton earlier this month and led to several days of evacuations around the site of the blaze.
Meanwhile, residents have been able to go back home and get things from their houses, but evacuation orders remain in place.
Hotels in the area are largely booked up, and shelters remain open. Police from surrounding communities are stationed around evacuated areas, helping block off roads and keeping non-residents from gaining access to the area.
Morris Mayor Chris Brown says that officials were unaware that the building contained the highly-flammable lithium ion batteries, and says that a disaster proclamation was issued on Wednesday to free up funds to address issues surrounding the fire.
For now, firefighters are hoping that the plan to use high-flow water and cement will put the blaze out, and will continue to work around the site to execute that strategy.