A fire in an industrial building has released smoke and poisonous fumes and forced evacuations in the town of Morris on Tuesday, and as residents continue to be asked not to return to their homes, the Red Cross has set up an overnight shelter in the community.
Volunteers from the organization are also providing food and water to more than 300 emergency personnel who are battling the blaze, which started Tuesday morning in the community.
“We’re going to be offering food, water and a place to go and ride this out,” Holly Baker of the Red Cross of Illinois said.
The fire broke out at a facility where up to 200,000 pounds of lithium ion batteries were stored. Firefighters battling the blaze had to take up defensive positions, unable to put water on the fire because of the batteries’ potential to ignite and explode when contacted by water.
Those burning batteries have also led to poisonous gases, which led to homes downwind of the fire being evacuated.
“It was a strong smell (that left) a funny taste in your mouth,” evacuee Kathleen Cameron said.
The Grundy County Administration Center has been transformed into an evacuation center for residents in need, but others are finding different accommodations.
“We’re probably going to stay at a hotel. We have no other place to go,” evacuee Kathy Gill says.
Residents say that the call to evacuate came quickly, with little time to grab anything but bare essentials and loved ones.
“They told us to get out of the house and to get out of the area without notice,” Reno Harrawood says.
“The police knocked on our door and told us we had to evacuate,” Cameron added.
The Red Cross and Grundy County officials say that shelters will be available for as long as the need remains, and it is unclear at this time when residents will be able to return to their homes. Officials are saying that residents will likely have to remain out of their homes at least through Wednesday night.
There have been no injuries reported in connection with the fire, with Morris officials crediting resources brought in from nearby Rockton, where they had been battling a recent chemical plant fire in that community.