Frequently Asked Questions

What caused the fire? 

The local fire department issued their preliminary findings publicly. 

While we worked to support containment, we also promptly convened an investigation team including independent experts to determine the origin and cause of the fire. While that investigation is ongoing, initial witness reports and other evidence suggest a contractor using a scissor lift struck part of a facility piping network and caused the release of mineral oil, which subsequently ignited.

Our investigation is ongoing, as access to the incident scene remains limited. However, we are developing a plan to assess the area where reports suggest the fire began once the scene is available to do so. While the community’s health and safety and area cleanup efforts are our top priorities, we understand that the Rockton community expects ongoing communication from the company about the fire, which we are committed to providing.

When do you expect conclusive, final investigation findings will be published?

There is no definitive date for the conclusion of investigation, but we will provide a transparent update upon its conclusion including a summary of its findings.

Why did the fire burn for so many hours? Did fire prevention equipment fail? 

Industrial fluids and finished greases produced at the site may burn for extended times. Lubrizol secured and activated US Fire Pump, a third-party, specialty emergency response team with a proven track record, to travel to Rockton for support in extinguishing the fire. Those resources worked with local teams, including deploying fire-fighting foam to suppress the fire. 

What are you doing to support the community?

We are devastated by this event and deeply regret the disruption and inconvenience that is has caused area residents. We are committed to helping this community, including donations we have made to the Northwestern Illinois Red Cross, the Northern Illinois Food Banks and the Rockton Lions Club.

We worked with Clean Harbors to remove fire-related debris from yards and complete outside surface cleaning as swiftly as possible. To date, we have paid visits to all residents who have requested assistance. This service has helped hundreds.

We are continuing to reimburse individuals and businesses for expenses tied to the fire provided they are submitted by October 31, 2021. Claims that were submitted by that deadline are being reviewed.  For questions about existing claims email RCKClaims@chemtool.com.

We will continue to offer ongoing support to our neighbors as we hear needs emerge. 

I have debris in my yard. Is it safe to clean up?  

We contracted with Clean Harbors to provide removal of fire-related debris. For nearly four months Clean Harbors responded to approximately 850 requests from Rockton residents and neighborhood businesses. Clean Harbors is no longer providing clean-up services.

All fire-related debris collected by Clean Harbors was sent to an EPA approved facility for disposal in accordance with all regulatory requirements.

Resident-Directed Cleaning

Residents can follow self-cleaning recommendations put forth by the Health Department and use household degreasing soap or cleaners for safe cleaning. 

How are you supporting employees?

We provided full support to our employees while we determined our long-term strategy. We understand near-term realities will limit the availability of steady employment at the site. With those realities in mind, we worked to place the site’s employees in new opportunities.

  • On July 1, we hosted a job fair with 16 area employers. On average, employees attending the event left with two secured interviews. Following the event, we provided information on all of these potential employers to our employees and will continue to support them in their pursuit of any roles of interest.
  • We have completed resume and interview workshops to support all employees and will provide other tools, such as computer access, to those who need it.
  • As part of our transition benefits, we will provide a placement bonus for employees who accept a role outside of Lubrizol as a thank you for the years of outstanding support and service and encouragement for the path ahead.

How does this impact my business with Lubrizol/Chemtool? 

We expect a total loss of our Chemtool site. We are activating our business continuity plans and will be in touch with all customers serviced by this site as soon as possible. 

Will operations resume at this site?  

We expect a total loss of our Chemtool site. We are activating our business continuity plans and will be in touch with all customers serviced by this site as soon as possible. 

What products/parts of the business were impacted? 

The Rockton site produces industrial fluids and finished greases used in a variety of lubrication applications. 

How will this impact my current/future orders/relationship with Lubrizol/Chemtool? 

We are activating our emergency response plan and will be in touch with all customers serviced by this site as soon as possible. 

Is the Rockton facility a sole-source supplier for any of your products? 

Yes, there are several products that are sole sourced by this site. We are activating our business continuity plans to limit customer impact, but we are anticipating disruptions for customers serviced by this site. 

 

What was the environmental damage, if any?

Local EPA and public health authorities have conducted a variety of testing. They shared those results during a 7.13 local press conference.

What is your response to the Illinois Attorney General and Winnebago County State’s Attorney lawsuit?

Throughout this event, we have been working with state and federal regulators to address their concerns and the needs of residents and will continue to do so. As we continue to move forward from the fire, we remain focused on supporting the local community. We will continue to provide ongoing updates here.

Are you completing ongoing testing?

We are continuing on-site air monitoring. Our scientists have compared these air monitoring results to published health benchmark data and do not see findings of concern. Results from this monitoring are below health risk benchmarks and show results consistent with monitoring in the area prior to the fire. 

What type of foam was used to combat the fire?

Fluorinated foam was used in the early stages of firefighting efforts for a limited time to avoid the alternative of letting the fire burn and spread. This closely monitored foam was limited to a portion of the site, backed by a containment plan. Fluorinated foam is twice as effective as non-fluorinated foam in suppressing a fire like the one we experienced and offered the best chance to control the fire in the shortest amount of time. 

Before any foam was applied, Lubrizol and US Fire Pumps teams instituted measures to contain these materials. This included digging containment trenches around the property, applying absorbent materials and vacuuming foam and water into industrial storage tanks for appropriate disposal.

What Lubrizol products burned in the fire?

The Lubrizol Chemtool site produces industrial fluids and finished greases used in a variety of lubrication applications. We have provided a full list of Lubrizol products impacted by the fire to the local authorities.  

Lubrizol health and safety experts have completed a thorough analysis of raw materials and products at the site during the incident. During a fire of this magnitude, products will convert to their elemental form. This infographic details the mix of the elements from Chemtool’s impacted materials (carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen, as examples), which are elements we breathe and touch every day.  

How dangerous are each of these products to human health, animal health and the environment? 

Lubrizol health and safety experts have completed a thorough analysis of raw materials and products at the site during the incident. During a fire of this magnitude, products will convert to their elemental form. This infographic details the mix of the elements from Chemtool’s impacted materials (carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen, as examples), which are elements we breathe and touch every day. 

Local EPA and public health authorities have conducted a variety of testing. They shared those results during a 7.13 local press conference.

Was anyone injured? 

No employees were injured. Lubrizol has a culture committed to safe workplaces. The trainings and drills our teams have been a part of on a regular basis allowed our teams to safely exit the site, preventing injury or loss of life. 

How many employees were on site at the time of the fire? 

Approximately 70 employees were on site at the time of the fire—all safely exited the site, a testament to the safety features and procedures in place and to the teamwork and leadership of our incredible Rockton employees.

Why was the local community evacuated?  

Out of an abundance of caution, local fire department evacuated residents within a one-mile radius. 

Local EPA and public health authorities have conducted a variety of testing. They shared those results during a 7.13 local press conference.

What is the safety record at the site? 

The Chemtool Rockton site has operated safely since its founding in 2008. Lubrizol acquired this site in 2013. We have no history of any major safety incidents at the site. 

What is your global safety record? How many other incidents have you had this year? 

We operate 60 sites around the world safely every day. Even one incident, like this one, is one too many. 

I have debris in my yard. Is it safe to clean up? 

We have contracted with Clean Harbors to provide removal of fire-related debris. For nearly four months, Clean Harbors responded to approximately 850 requests from Rockton residents and neighborhood businesses. Clean Harbors is no longer providing cleanup services. We understand residents’ expectation to have fire-related debris removed from their yards and surfaces of their properties cleaned as swiftly as possible. To date, we have paid visits to all residents who have requested assistance.

In addition, residents can follow self-cleaning recommendations put forth by the Health Department and use household degreasing soap or cleaners for safe cleaning.

What does Chemtool produce? 

The Chemtool site has been safely operating in Rockton since 2008, employing ~200 employees who support manufacturing of industrial fluids and finished greases used in a variety of lubrication applications. As previously confirmed, the team members on site at the onset of the fire exited the facilities safely without injury. 

How many people are employed at the site? 

Approximately 200 employees work at the Rockton, IL facility.

How is Chemtool related to Lubrizol? What is their relationship? 

Chemtool is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Lubrizol Corporation. Chemtool was acquired by Lubrizol in 2013 and is a key producer of industrial fluids and finished greases used in a variety of lubrication applications.  

What is made at the site? 

The Rockton site produces industrial fluids and finished greases used in a variety of lubrication applications.