There and back again

Third Ward alderman Alex Clubb shares story of evacuation and return

MORRIS – The morning of Tuesday, June 29, started like any other for the Clubb family 800 block of East Benton Street in Morris. Alex Clubb went off to work, and Ashlee Clubb was at home with their son, Parker – who will have his first birthday on July 19 – and their two dogs.

At about noon that day, though, things changed.

“I was out working when everything started,” said Alex Clubb, referring to the fire that broke out at the industrial building being used to store batteries at 919 E. Benton St. in Morris. “Ashlee called and said something was burning. She could go outside and see it from our front porch. We are only about a block away from the building that was on fire.

“When I found out what building it was and what was in it, I told Ashlee to get a bag together for her and the baby and get out of there. I didn’t want my wife, child and dogs in that area.”

When the evacuation order for that side of town came, the Clubbs had places to go.

“My parents live south of town,” said Alex Clubb, who owns and works for A. Clubb Lawn Care & Landscaping Inc. and is a 3rd Ward alderman, along with Derrick Wren, for the city of Morris. “So I went there. I wanted to stay as close to town as I could in case I had any alderman business that came up. Ashlee went to a friend’s place in Joliet with the baby and the two dogs.

“It was kind of weird being displaced. We weren’t where we wanted to be, which was at home, and we had no idea how long we’d be gone. It was OK for us because we did have friends and family we could stay with, but it was hard being apart the way we were.”

Clubb, like the rest of the residents in the evacuation area – Illinois Avenue north to the railroad tracks and Route 47 east to Washington Street – was uncertain how long they would be out of their home. But he also knew it was the right choice.

“We just wanted to go home,” he said. “But it was all uncertain, and we didn’t know what would happen. That building and those batteries could have exploded at any time, and with our home being that close to the site, it was best to stay away.

“We didn’t know how long it would be, but three nights away from home was pretty tough.”

At 4 p.m. July 2, the evacuation order was lifted and the Clubbs and the rest of the east side residents could return home.

“Ashlee went into the house and cleaned everything,” Alex Clubb said. “We changed our air filters, and there was no smell in the house.

“Everyone in the neighborhood is back now. The people that live in the 900 blocks around here have to park outside the barricaded area, but they can still go home.”

It is definitely an experience that Alex Clubb doesn’t want to go through again, and he said that his family’s lives have returned to somewhat normal.

“It was the craziest thing I have ever seen,” he said. “But it’s under control now and our first responders did a great job of fighting the fire. The main concern is the cleanup and how that goes. The soil and water have been tested, so we haven’t gone out and bought a bunch of bottled water, and we aren’t afraid to take a shower.

“We love the neighborhood we are in, and none of the neighbors we have talked to are thinking about moving, and neither are we. Everyone was pretty worried, not knowing what was going to happen, but we just hoped for the best.”

Rob Oesterle

Rob has been a sports writer for the Morris Herald-News and Joliet Herald-News for more than 20 years. He is currently also writing news for the Morris Herald-News.