Officials say they will likely have to wait until a fire that has been rampaging through a Rockton chemical plant burns itself out before they’ll be able to determine what caused the conflagration this week.
According to officials, there is still no definitive word on what caused the blaze at the Chemtool lubricant manufacturing plant, which started just after 7 a.m. Monday.
The fire is continuing to burn, as firefighters remain hesitant to pour water on the blaze for fear of chemicals running off into the nearby Rock River.
That fire will need to be brought under control before firefighters move into a new phase of the investigation, according to Rockton fire chief Kirk Wilson.
“I think once we get a good handle and get the fire suppressed, then we’ll go into what’s called the ‘investigative mode,’” he said. “It’s going to take some time for us to figure out what the actual cause of the fire was.”
Just how long that blaze will continue remains to be seen. Officials say that it could take several days for the chemicals fueling the fire to burn off, and an evacuation order remains in effect for homes within a one-mile radius of the site.
Residents within three miles of the plant have been asked to wear masks to help protect themselves from airborne particles, officials said.
The fire started just after 7 a.m. Monday at the plant and quickly spread, with hundreds of firefighters and dozens of fire companies participating in trying to bring the blaze under control. Smoke billowed into the air and was visible from miles away, and while officials say that air quality at ground level has remained safe, there is still concern about pieces of debris and other chemicals that could be in the air.
All employees of the plant were evacuated safely, according to officials. Two firefighters were treated for ailments after working to combat the blaze.