Investigation Continues into Massive Chemical Plant Fire in Illinois

A massive fire that erupted Wednesday morning at a chemical plant in La Salle, Ill., has been contained, and no injuries have been reported.

Firefighters responded to reports of a fire at approximately 9 a.m. at the Carus Chemical plant, La Salle Fire Chief Jerry Janick said during a press conference at about 2:30 p.m. La Salle is about 90 miles southwest of Chicago.

“Responders arrived to a ‘well-involved’ structure fire and initiated MABAS alarms for additional help,” the city of La Salle wrote in a press release shared on social media.

Carus manufactures potassium permanganate used to treat drinking water and wastewater. It also produces other chemicals, including phosphates and polymers, according to its website.

All employees were evacuated from the plant, and all of them were accounted for, Janick said during the press conference.

The blaze caused significant damage to the building.

Videos shared by local news outlets showed large plumes of smoke coming from the plant. Some residents reported hearing explosions, but Janick said he could not confirm, and the cause of the fire was not yet determined.

The city implemented a shelter-in-place order for the areas north and west of the plant as a precaution due to a large amount of smoke in the area, Janick added.

“And right now, we’re still bringing in additional equipment to assist in the final extinguishment and investigation,” he said.

‘Giant Plume’

Veronica Borzumato, who lives a few blocks away from the plant, told WBBM News that she was in her bedroom around 9 a.m. and heard what sounded like “a dozen dump trucks rolling through.”

She said she looked outside and saw a “giant plume of yellowish, greenish, bluish-pink smoke.”

“It was like nothing I’ve ever seen before,” Borzumato added.

La Salle Police said an oxidizer was released as a result of the fire. People are instructed not to touch the substance and provided instructions for deactivating it.

“In order to deactivate it, you will need 1:1:1 mixture of: 1 gallon of water, 1 gallon of peroxide, 1 gallon of vinegar,” police said, according to ABC7 News.

The fire started in the plant’s shipping department, a Carus official said in a statement.

“We are thankful everyone is safe, and we are also grateful to the LaSalle Fire Department and crews from the surrounding area who responded to address this situation to keep the area safe,” Carus Vice President of Operations Allen Gibbs said in a press release.

“Carus’ priority is to protect the health and safety of the employees, emergency personnel who are responding to this fire and the nearby community,” he added.

Janick said officials are continuing their investigation and addressing environmental concerns.

Jana J. Pruet

Jana is an award-winning investigative journalist. She lives in Texas with her husband and enjoys spending time with her children and grandchildren.

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