La Salle residents living within the 3rd or 4th wards of the city were asked to shelter in place as a precautionary measure Wednesday after a fire at Carus Chemical - an order that was lifted early Wednesday evening.
There were reports of explosions heard at about 9 a.m., then smoke was visible from the plant at 1500 Eighth St. All Carus workers were evacuated and accounted for and there were no injuries, except for a minor injury to a firefighter, who was treated and released, said La Salle Fire Chief Jerry Janick.
The response was brisk and the fire was contained before noon Wednesday, Janick said. The fire chief said the Mutual Aid Box Alarm System was activated to fourth alarm. No cause was known at this time, but Janick said it was a “well-involved structure fire.”
The fire was reported to be in the plant’s shipping department.
Janick said the fire was “intense,” and said he’s never faced a chemical fire with these types of materials. The fire escalated to a fourth MABAS alarm and brought in more than a dozen fire departments and emergency responders, in addition to the EPA, Coast Guard and HAZMAT teams.
An oxidizer, appearing green in color, has been released in the area, according to the La Salle Police Department. The police instructed residents not to touch this substance if seen near or on a residence.
The public should continue to avoid the plant and let crews tend to clean up of the fire, Janick said. It’s not known how much of the building will be a loss or the amount of structural damage.
The EPA will continue to be on scene. Carus Chemical is a manufacturer of chemical products used by companies and municipalities. The company provides supplies, products, equipment, and services used for municipal water treatment, wastewater, air purification and soil remediation.
“We are thankful everyone is safe, and we are also grateful to the La Salle Fire Department and crews from the surrounding area who responded to address this situation to keep the area safe.” said Carus Vice President of Operations Allen Gibbs. “Carus’ priority is to protect the health and safety of the employees and emergency personnel who are responding to this fire and the nearby community.”
Police Chief Mike Smudzinski thanked the involved police departments for locking down the area so the fire department could contain the fire quickly.
“As a team, all the departments worked really well together,” Smudzinski said. “It all worked out very well and we’re thankful nobody got hurt and no lives were lost.”
Police from across the area blocked streets from Joliet Street to the plant. Residents in that neighborhood were being allowed to return to their homes, but through traffic was being turned away.
Ron Edgcomb, a former Carus employee who lives close by, said he’d been watching the fire for a half an hour at about 10 a.m. He was sleeping when a friend sent him a text photo about the fire, warning him about it.
Edgcomb was one of many residents near the plant who gathered on their lawns to watch the fire develop on Wednesday morning. Police and fire fighters encouraged onlookers to keep their distance. Many of the responding personnel were not in HAZMAT suits while responding to the fire.
Involved fire and police departments on scene include the Illinois State Police, La Salle, Granville, Wallace, Troy Grove, Spring Valley, Ottawa, Tonica, Earlville, Sublette, Dixon and Amboy, among many others.