Local firefighting officials said last week that a June 14 blaze that heavily damaged a Chemtool grease plant in Rockton, Illinois, was triggered by an accident that occurred during a maintenance procedure.
An outside contractor was working to replace insulation on pipes used to transfer mineral oil that provides heat to grease kettles, according to a statement by Rockton Fire Protection District Chief Kirk Wilson. Because the piping is elevated, the contractor was using a scissors lift to reach it.
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Shortly before the fire began, oil began falling from the piping and pooling on the floor near the origin of the fire. Wilson stated that the most likely cause of the leak was that the scissors lift struck a valve or another part of piping.
“Chemtool operators promptly detected the release and shut down the boiler” that heated the oil, Wilson wrote. “They were in the process of placing containment booms as well as de-pressuring the heat transfer piping network when the fire ignited.”
The statement said investigators are still trying to determine what ignited the blaze. The fire turned into a very large blaze that took days to extinguish. No injuries were reported, but Lubrizol has said it expects to declare the facility a total loss.
The company has also said that the incident did not cause any health risks other than the potential risk for smoke irritation, but nearby residents have already sued, claiming negative impacts to their properties.