MORRIS, Ill. (CBS) — Thousands of people in far southwest suburban Morris are being told to stay away from their homes for a second day.
The evacuation order has been extended to Thursday at 9 p.m. Residents originally thought they could head home Wednesday night.READ MORE: Investigation Underway After String Of Church Burglaries In Morgan Park
But dangerous smoke still poured late Wednesday from a building packed with lithium batteries, and the situation remained unsafe.
A total of 1,058 structures have been evacuated near the scene, including 995 residential homes.
Late Wednesday night, police allowed residents to come home briefly to pick up essential items such as medicine, and then leave again. They had to show ID to get not the area.
CBS 2’s Tara Molina spoke to the owner of the business that is on fire. He said he just bought the building and has been storing batteries there, but there have been building issues in the form of leaks.
The owner said he thinks they could have caused this fire. We know, from the fire department and how they’ve had to fight this fire, that lithium explodes when in contact with water.
On Wednesday, black smoke was seen billowing out of the Superior Battery building. Hanging in the air, it remained the main concern in Morris a day after the fire started.
The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday continued to test and monitor the air quality around Morris to decide whether people forced to evacuate because of this possible health hazard, can come back home.
Meanwhile, the fire continued to burn more than 24 hours since it started because they can’t fight it in a conventional way.
There are 80-100 tons of batteries in the building, many of them the lithium ion batteries that were being stored there.
And again, because lithium explodes when it comes in contact with water, they can’t use water to fight the flames – smothering them instead.
So how did this all start?
And who was making sure those batteries were stored properly before it happened?READ MORE: Another Victim Of Serial Killer John Wayne Gacy Identified: Francis Wayne Alexander, Of North Carolina
CBS 2 put out requests out to city, state, and federal agencies to try to get those questions answered.
In the meantime, Morris Fire Chief Tracey Steffes said Wednesday morning, “We’ve gotten nothing from this company.”
The police chief stepped in Wednesday afternoon.
“We are not doing any additional mandatory evacuations,” said Morris Police Chief Alicia Steffes.
As crews continued to work to put the fire out and get people back home safely, police asking people only to call them in the case of an emergency.
As for those outside of the evacuation area, but concerned, police Chief Steffes said: “People need to take some responsibility on this themselves. If they are uncomfortable or unsure and want to be safe. If they feel they are having some kind of symptoms, they need to make their own decision and be responsible and leave.”
The owner of the building said that he feels hopeless about what happened and never meant to harm this community.
The director of EPA in Illinois said their emergency response team has been here since Tuesday, watching air quality closely and providing information back to commander and chief. They are also Keeping eye on water due to possible runoff issues with the Illinois River.
The mayor of Morris says first and foremost is safety of residents, hence the evacuation extension.
Meanwhile, another battery company called Superior Battery with a large public presence confirmed, via email, they are not associated with this company and the fire in any way.
Jason Shanks, Vice President of Sales and Marketing of Superior Battery Manufacturing Company, Inc. sent this statement:
We are in no way affiliated with the company in Chicago. We have only one location in Russell Springs, KY.
We were unaware that someone was using a similar name to ours for their business.
Superior Battery Mfg. Co., Inc. in Russell Springs, KY is a manufacturer of flooded lead-acid batteries only, and does not manufacture Lithium batteries.
As for those who have been evacuated, the American Red Cross continues to provide shelter. Seven people chose to stay in the shelter provided Tuesday night, and 12 hotel rooms are being used by seniors.MORE NEWS: Teen Charged In Pair Of September 2020 Carjackings On South Side
Morris city officials said they do not know of any residents who have needed medical attention, and no first responders have either.