Area fire departments and hazardous material teams went to Lewistown on Friday to help battle a blaze at Lewistown Ag Inc. Damages could top $400,000, and a firefighter was slightly injured. Authorities did not know the cause of the blaze.

Emergency workers from around the area converged Friday on Lewistown after an agricultural chemical fire caused concerns about hazardous materials.


The fire was reported at 4:52 a.m. at Lewistown Ag Inc. on North Broadway Street. Firefighters from the Lewistown, Cuba, Ipava, Buckheart and Havana Rural departments battled the blaze at the metal building housing the agricultural chemical business.


By about 9 a.m., only a smoldering pile of debris was left, but emergency officials were concerned about the combination of LP gas, diesel fuel and the water put on the fire.


Hazardous materials teams from the Canton, Macomb and Pekin fire departments and the Mutual Aid Box Alarm System based in Galesburg were called in. They helped decontaminate firefighters who battled the blaze and their gear.


Business owners John and Judy Gorsuch of Astoria could not be reached for comment Friday night, but Lewistown Fire Chief John Spotloe said damage from the fire could total at least $400,000.


Fulton County Sheriff’s Deputy Barry Blackwell, the department’s emergency preparedness coordinator, said the cause of the fire is undetermined. An investigator from the Illinois State Fire Marshal’s Office was on the scene early Friday.


Blackwell said when firefighters arrived at the building the shop and work areas were on fire and the building had partially collapsed. One firefighter suffered a steam burn and was treated at the scene.


Firefighters also heard a series of small explosions during the fire. Blackwell said the explosions were caused by small LP cylinders in the building.


The back of the building contained a chemical storage area. "The extension to the rear was contained and we don’t believe there was a breach," Blackwell said.


No employees were at the business when the fire started. The Sheriff’s Department said Lewistown Ag has fewer than 10 employees.


Area residents were notified early Friday about the fire, but no evacuation was ordered, Blackwell said.


Daniel Hopping of Lewistown was just arriving at his job just before 5 a.m. at Casey’s General Store, a block from Lewistown Ag, when he began hearing sirens.


"I looked over there and there were big flames in the air and lots of black smoke," Hopping said. His parents live across the street from Lewistown Ag, and he said they left their home as fireflghters battled the blaze.


Blackwell said representatives from the Fulton County Health Department, the Red Cross, Fulton County, Lewistown and Cuba emergency services and the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency came to the scene Friday as well.


As the morning progressed the firefighters who worked decontaminating the equipment were evaluated by the Regional Medical Emergency Response Team.

The RMERT trailer from OSF Saint Francis Medical Center in Peoria, with an attached tent, was uscd as a base to treat the decontamination workers. A generator was used to pump air conditioning into the tent to reduce the body temperature of firefighters, some of whom had been wearing hazardous materials suits.


"We need to make sure they’re not overheated and that they have fluids and their vitals checked," said RMERT Chief Brad Pierson said. "When they leave the tent we want to make sure their vitals are back within normal limits."


Medical team members working in the tent also rinsed out the eyes of one firefighter.

The RMERT team is made up of representatives of 23 hospitals in the region, but those who came to Lewistown on Friday were all from St. Francis. Pierson said the team has been activated about 12 times in the last l8 to 24 months.

Reach Journal Star reporter Jodi Pospeschil at (309) 686-3041 or