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Evacuation order stays in Rockton as biggest festival in region kicks off nearby


ROCKTON (WREX) — As the Chemtool fire burns for a fourth night in Rockton, residents within a one mile radius of the plant still can't return home Thursday.

At a news conference at South Beloit High School Thursday night, officials with the Winnebago County Emergency Operations Center said the evacuation order will stay in place as the biggest festival in the region kicks off about .25 miles outside of the evacuation zone.

WATCH: Officials give update Thursday on the ongoing Chemtool fire as Old Settler's Days kicks off nearby.

Officials maintained that air quality remains safe at Settler's Park after EPA testing. Though due to air quality testing results pending, officials said they cannot lift the evacuation mandate for those immediately around the plant.

"Attendees to Old Settler's Days should not park this area for the potential of spreading, our ground is still very dry, picking up dust and things like that," Winnebago County Public Health Administrator Dr. Sandra Martell said.

Despite concerns from nearby residents, officials maintained that holding a festival at Settler's Park, which approximately 1.25 miles from the fire, is safe.

"The conversation has been 100 percent about safety. The conversation between Dr. Martell and everyone else has been if it's not safe, cancel the event. It was not me that gave the green light," Rockton Village President John Peterson said.

Kristyn Isom lives within one mile of Chemtool and one of dozens of families that hasn't been home since Monday. She is frustrated that officials said it's safe for hundreds of people to gather at Old Settler's Days, yet her and her three kids are stuck living out of a suitcase at a friend's house with no set date for them to return home.

"I don’t see how a tenth of a mile is safe, all free, clear to go, when we have no answers," she said. "We don’t even know if it’s safe for our kids to be outside, if we can run our ACs, anything. So the fact that Old Settler’s Days is happening is mindboggling to me."

The US EPA said it will conduct real-time air monitoring at Old Settler's Days.

Breane Lyga

Breane Lyga is the content manager at 13 WREX. She joined the team in 2015 as the 5, 6 and 10PM news producer after graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. She was 13 WREX’s assignment editor from 2017 to 2018.

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