Evacuation order lifted in Illinois Metropolis three days after the fireplace
MORRIS, Ill. (AP) – Enough progress has been made in a fire in a northern Illinois building with 100 ton batteries to allow thousands of residents to finally return to their homes three days after being evacuated, officials said Friday.
Firefighters in Morris poured 28 tons of cement on the burning batteries to smother the seam, according to Chief Tracey Steffes, who previously warned that water or foam could cause the batteries to explode. He said using the cement – a tactic that to his knowledge had never been tried before – seemed to work and there was no longer any active burning on the building.
He said firefighters were monitoring the site as the batteries don’t need oxygen to burn and therefore could re-ignite.
At the same time, officials believe that the 3,000 to 4,000 people who have been evacuated from about 950 homes are safe to return to their homes, both because of the effectiveness of the cement and the quality of the air in the community.
“We have set up air surveillance, 11 locations are monitored … and it looks very, very good, the (air) quality,” he said.
The fire broke out on Tuesday in an allegedly abandoned paper mill. When the fire department arrived, they found the batteries.
City officials, obviously upset that the batteries were being stored in the building without their knowledge, said they would urge local and state authorities to investigate. On Thursday, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency asked the attorney general to take legal action against property owner Superior Battery.
The company’s owner, Jin Zheng, apologized for the impact the fire had on those who live and work nearby.
“I’m really sorry that it harms the community,” he said.