HOOPESTON —Teams of firefighters from Vermilion and Iroquois counties, and still more from Indiana continued to battle a blaze which broke out in a huge tire recycling facility early Wednesday morning.
Some officials fear the fire could burn for days. Safety precautions are in place. And Red Cross sheltering is in place after neighborhood evacuations.
Firefighters were called to the fire at J&R Used Tire Service Inc. at 103 Maple St. just before 5:0 a.m. When they arrived, the south end of the 400,000-square-foot 3brick facility was engulfed in flames.
"From the very beginning, it's just been an overwhelming day," Hoopeston Fire Chief Cliff Crabtree said. He said firefighters were just starting to bring the fire under control near the noon hour.
"We knew when we first got on the scene that we were going to have to take a defensive approach because of the type of fire it was," he continued, adding the building was filled with tires. "Unfortunately, in this circumstance, ... you lose the whole building."
Reports of 5-15 employees of the business, owned by Rodney and Janie Rogers, were at work when the fire broke out, but they managed to escape without injury, said Lance Smith, Rodney Rogers' brother. He said one man was taken to a local hospital for possible smoke inhalation, but he was released later in the morning.
Crabtree wasn't sure how long the fire would burn. "I expect to be here another 24 to 36 hours," he said. Other officials said tire fires could burn for several days.
Shortly after the fire broke out, police evacuated homes and apartment buildings on Maple, Market and Lincoln streets, First Avenue and parts of Second and Third avenues not quite a mile west of the recycling facility, Police Chief Mark Drollinger said. Residents were taken to emergency shelters at Hoopeston Area High School and several local churches.
The Red Cross set up a shelter at the First Church of God on E. Orange Street.
Drollinger said portions of those streets along with Illinois 9 (also Orange Street) near the fire scene are closed to traffic, and only fire trucks and other emergency vehicles are allowed through.
Drollinger wasn't certain how long residents would remain evacuated or when the streets would reopen to the public. Ameren also cut power to parts of the city, although officials said most of the power had been restored later in the morning.
The Danville Fire Department's hazardous materials team was also on the scene monitoring the air quality.
Rogers said he got the call at his home just after the fire started and his first concern was that his employees were all okay. He said his main concern after that became the safety of all the firefighters battling the blaze.
"My prayers are with all the people in Hoopeston, the families and the firefighters, and thankful for everyone who has pitched in," he said. "I'm sorry for what's happening to Hoopeston right now; sorry for all the inconvenience this is causing. We are going to do everything we can to make things right. This is like my worst nightmare."
Fire notes >
17 fire departments were at the scene. 1.5 million gal of water had been used. evacuations were within a mile radius.
Firefighters from at least a half-dozen departments are on the scene of a major blaze in Hoopeston this morning (Wed., June 19th). The fire is located at J & R Used Tire Service, located at Illinois route 9 and Market Streets in Hoopeston.
Firefighters have been battling the blaze for several hours, and thick black smoke is rolling across the community. Many residences have been evacuated.
There have been no reports of injuries. Hoopeston Volunteer Firefighters are getting mutual aid from several other departments including units from the Rossville, Bluegrass, Bismarck and Ambia, Indiana departments.
Police have cordoned off the area and are asking the public to stay away from the fire scene.