Fire rages at Illinois chemical plant, residents ordered to shelter

Firefighters tackle a large blaze at the Carus Chemical Plant in LaSalle

By Tyler Clifford

(Reuters) -A chemical plant in northern Illinois went up in flames on Wednesday morning, sending up plumes of black smoke and prompting officials to advise nearby residents to shelter in place as emergency crews responded to the blaze.

The fire broke out at the Carus Chemical Company complex in LaSalle, a city of less than 10,000 residents located about 100 miles southwest of Chicago.

Fire crews were called to the scene at 9 a.m. after an explosion at the plant, and the ensuing blaze caused significant damage before it was contained, LaSalle Fire Chief Jerry Janick said at a news conference. Additional equipment was ordered to fully extinguish the fire and start an investigation.

Video on social media showed thick black smoke billowing from the structure. Multiple structures in the complex were damaged or destroyed, footage showed.

LaSalle police alerted the public that a green-colored oxidizer was released in the area and warned residents against touching the substance.

"Hats off to the fire department because I think a good portion of this blaze was knocked down within a good hour," LaSalle Police Chief Mike Smudzinski said.

All workers were evacuated and accounted for with no injuries, according to a spokesperson for the family-owned company.

Carus produces an oxidant used to treat drinking and waste water, phosphates for corrosion control, and carbon capture products used for air purification, according to its website.

A shelter order remained in place for residents north and west of the incident, Janick said.

(Reporting by Tyler Clifford; Editing by Leslie Adler and Bill Berkrot)