Salvation Army Responds to Rockton-Area Chemical Fire

Jun 15, 2021

Early this morning Chemtool Inc, a grease and lubrication manufacturing facility in Rockton, Illinois, was engulfed in flames and belching plumes of black smoke that could be seen as far southeast as Kane County.

The Salvation Army Emergency Disaster Services (EDS) in Winnebago County responded immediately with a mobile feeding unit, and additional support units from Chicago were deployed immediately after. Staff and volunteers were onsite as early as 8:30 a.m. providing meals, snacks, and beverages, a respite area, and emotional and spiritual support for more than 300 first responders both at the scene and in outposts.

It's Personal

The Salvation Army first responded to a disaster in 1900 when Galveston, Texas, was devastated by a hurricane. Then, Salvation Army soldiers and volunteers brought practical and spiritual support to those most in need. Today, that mission remains the same.

That is why Jacob Heiser, Operations Manager for Salvation Army Winnebago County, found himself at the Rockton chemical plant as part of the Army’s response. He is an auxiliary law enforcement officer, so he knows many of the first responders. “This is personal for me,” Heiser said. “Normally I would be responding with them. Now, with The Salvation Army EDS team, I’m serving them.”

During his shift, Heiser not only served his colleagues and friends directly at the scene of the fire, but also visited the outposts manned by police officers and stopped by the fire trucks, tankers, and ambulances waiting to enter the scene. He dropped of sandwiches, chips, snacks, water, and Gatorade…and offered words of encouragement and support to men and women waiting to serve, some coming from more than 90 minutes away.

Looking Forward

The Chemtool fire is expected to be a multi-day event, and The Salvation Army is committed to remaining onsite 24 hours a day until the last responder leaves.

Volunteers are needed during disaster responses such as this; consider registering for upcoming training sessions or making a donation to support this and other responses.

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