Carus says damaged packaging of potassium permanganate led to Jan. 11 fire

Friction caused by forklift truck likely caused ignition of spilled material, company says

Excavators clean debris from Carus Chemical Company nearly one month after the fire on Friday, Feb. 10, 2023. The fire began on Jan. 11, 2023 and escalated to a fourth Mutual Aid Box Alarm System and brought in more than a dozen fire departments and emergency responders, in addition to the Environmental Protection Agency, Coast Guard and HAZMAT teams.

A combination of events stemming from damaged packaging of potassium permanganate led to the Jan. 11 fire at Carus Chemical in La Salle, the company said Thursday.

Potassium permanganate, which was contained in Supersac packaging, a common form of packaging, was being transported from the warehouse to a waiting truck and was damaged in transit by a forklift truck, the company said in a news release.

The warehouse team cleaned up the spilled material and moved the damaged Supersac to a separate location, which was following normal protocols, the company said. As the damaged Supersac was being moved, friction caused by the forklift truck moving the support pallet likely ignited the material underneath the pallet, the company said.

Understanding what happened that day is important for the entire community, and we are committed to mitigating the risk of this ever happening again.”

—  Andy Johnston, president and CEO of Carus Chemical

Carus hired a third-party consultant to investigate the cause of the fire, which led residents to shelter in place and released an oxidant called potassium permanganate onto homes, cars, mailboxes and other property. The chemical is used in water treatment.

There were no injuries as a result of the fire.

“Understanding what happened that day is important for the entire community, and we are committed to mitigating the risk of this ever happening again,” Carus President and CEO Andy Johnston said in the release. “We recognize the effect this has had on neighbors, friends and family, and our priority continues to be the safety of our employees and residents of the greater La Salle-Peru community.”

The Illinois State Fire Marshal’s Office also conducted a preliminary investigation and found the cause of the fire undetermined with no evidence of suspicious activity.

In the more than 100 years that Carus has been in business, there has never been an event like this, the company said.

“Carus is committed to mitigating the risk that there could be a repeat of this event through careful adherence to established safe handling and storage practices, as well as all local, state and federal regulations,” the company said. “We ask our customers to do the same.”

Carus will continue to provide updates on cleanup and community support efforts, as well as what customers can expect and when, through and the Carus Community Hotline at 815-224-6662.