UPDATE: Helena Chemical began limited operations on Saturday.

“The Orion community and the Helena family have been there for us,” said Tom Seabloom, Branch Manager. “We have had great reinforcement from our Helena area support team. I would like to especially recognize Scott Libby, Dan Leifker and Jill Down at our Wyoming, Illinois location. Also, the Princeton distribution warehouse has been a necessary part of getting back on our feet.”

A spokesperson also said “great progress has been made in six short days,” adding that “the contractors that are working the site are among the top in their field across the United States. We are working diligently with ILEPA and are greatly appreciative of their experience and knowledge.”  

EARLIER UPDATE

Wildlife is already paying the price in the fallout after this week’s massive fire at the Helena Chemicals Facility in Orion. Local 4 News has found out that a large population of fish died from it.

EARLIER REPORT

Keeping contamination in check is the concern in Orion after it took thousands of gallons of water to put out Wednesday’s fire at the Helena Chemical warehouse.  

Authorities are concerned about what else the water washed away and where it’s headed.

The director of Henry County’s Office of Emergency Management said there were about 25 different chemicals in the building. Runoff from some of those chemicals made it into a nearby creek. Crews built a dam last night to keep it from going any farther. They started pumping the water into tanks Thursday. 

Kathleen Kurrle, who lives near the contaminated creek at US-150 and N. 1200 Avenue, knew something was going on when emergency crews started driving down her street Wednesday night.

“We saw a bunch of vehicles and trucks and stuff going by and we didn’t know for sure what it was,” she said. 

Closer to the creek, Carol Gehring realized something was happening too. 

“We’ll go look out the kitchen window over here to see what more has been added and those big red trucks were the last thing that we saw,” she said.

Those trucks are taking the dirty creek water somewhere safe to dump. 

However, that creek runs right through one man’s property. He said the creek used to have fish in it, but he hasn’t seen any since crews built the dam. 

That makes Gehring worry about her creek. 

“We don’t talk to anybody or anything. Nobody has come up here and asked us anything. I guess we are of no concern because we are higher,” she said. “It makes you wonder, you know, about our water supply.”

Kurrle said she’s not worried about the possible contamination.

“It’s a little scary, but I don’t think it’s going to affect us. We’re just watching the trucks go back and forth all day long taking care of it,” she said.

Orion’s water superintendent said the village pulls its water from deep wells that wouldn’t be impacted by the chemicals. 

The Environmental Protection Agency is running soil and water tests to see what has been contaminated.

EARLIER REPORT

Chemical runoff is the big concern surrounding the fire at a plant in Orion tonight.

Firefighters are also watching the wind.

It broke out at the Helena Chemical plant. People say they heard small explosions coming from the facility.

Local 4’s Owen Hoke was the first reporter on the scene.  

The fire raging at Helena Chemical, on U.S. Highway 150 just outside of Orion, closed the highway for a while but it’s now back open.

They say the fire was started when workers were out and there are no reported injuries.

Fire departments from all over responded: Colona, Orion, Cambridge, Kewanee and Coal Valley.

They’ve been filling water in town because it doesn’t appear that there was a water source available for them on the scene.

The chief here said that there was no immediate danger to the public that the fumes went off into a field away from towns.

He said there’s no need to evacuate. They are now currently letting the fire burn out so they don’t have to add additional water to the chemicals, which will cause more chemical run off.

They are letting the fire burn out and will continue working to ensure the chemicals don’t run off anymore than necessary. 

EARLIER REPORT

Multiple fire crews are responding to a fire at a chemical plant in Orion.

Crews from across the area, including Coal Valley, Hampton, Silvis, Colona, Osco, Sherrard and more, have started cycling water to the scene at Helena Chemical.

Multiple small explosions could be heard as the flames melted the walls of the structure and engulfed the roof. No one was injured and no evacuations are taking place at this time.

The cause is unknown and crews are working hard to contain the runoff while waiting for the fire to put itself out.

Helena Chemical is located at 2929 North 1300th Avenue (U.S. Highway 150) in Orion.

U.S. 150 is closed from Illinois Route 81 to Orion.

Local 4 News is live from the scene. Orion Fire Chief Doug Smutzer gave us a brief update on the situation earlier today:

“Right now, multiple chemicals in there,” Smutzer said. “There is no evacuation needed. What we’re doing right now, we’re cooling the building. We’re hoping for it to just burn in place. We’re getting a foam operation set up to attack the fire. That’s about what we can do for now. There is no need for an evacuation. We think it’s moving up and beyond. It’s moving across open fields. If the wind would change, that changes our game plan. Right now, we’re just trying to cool the sides of the building to keep everything to just collapse in on itself. We’re keeping it within its walls, but the building is doing that, not us.”