Fire at Chevron refinery produces health hazard emergency over San Francisco Bay area

August 7, 2012CALIFORNIAOfficials fearing toxic smoke told residents to remain indoors late Monday as a fire at a Chevron refinery released black plumes over the plant in the San Francisco Bay Area. The fire broke out at 6:15 p.m., with flames visible at the top of two refinery stacks. Thick black smoke spewed from the Richmond plant, covering the city and San Pablo, about 10 miles northeast of San Francisco. The fire was contained by 10:30 p.m., but it was not known when the flames would be extinguished, said Chevron spokeswoman Heather Kulp. Smoke continued to pour from the facility late Monday. The blaze started at the refinery’s No. 4 Crude Unit after an inspection crew discovered a diesel leak in a line in the unit, Nigel Hearne, manager of the refinery, told The San Francisco Chronicle. Shortly after the crew evacuated the area, the diesel ignited, Hearne said. One employee suffered a minor injury and was receiving first aid, Chevron officials said. Residents of Richmond, San Pablo and the unincorporated community of North Richmond were advised by Contra Costa County health officials through automated calls to ‘shelter in place,’ meaning they should not only stay inside, but should also turn off heaters, air conditioners and fans, and to cover cracks around doors with tape or damp towels. “Any kind of smoke can be toxic,” said Randy Sawyer, the chief environmental and hazardous materials officer for the county’s health services agency. “In this smoke, there can also be all kind of byproducts that can be toxic,” he said. The agency had four teams of inspectors in the field taking readings of the air quality, Sawyer said. Daniela Rodriguez told the Contra Costa Times that she heard a ‘big boom’ about the time the fire started. The 23-year-old resident said about an hour passed before she received a call to shelter in place. “I was feeling kind of nauseous and light-headed (from the smell),” she told the newspaper. –Google
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7 Responses to Fire at Chevron refinery produces health hazard emergency over San Francisco Bay area

  1. Diggs says:

    I live in the East Bay and the cloud of smoke was evident as it rose 5 miles from the facility. What concerns me about this is I’m sure these chemicals will cause harm ad officials will not fully admit to the level of toxicity spread throughout the area. When it’s hot as it is now the smog and I’m sure this stays around for days. I can see it in the air this morning too. It won’t disapate until we get a strong wind or rain (unlikely).

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  2. I am from California, lived there for the first 25 years of my life but I gotta say, COME ON!!!! Smoke? if you have ever lived in or visited the Houston area, you know that while very uncomfortable, smoke, which probably kills white mice at the mere whiff of it, is only THAT toxic when breathed in concentrated amounts and or for long periods of time. SF has quite a nice breeze blowing in or off the ocean all the time. ‘Light headed and nauseous’, gimmie a break!

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    • StevenJ says:

      I think if you really knew the types of hazardous (read extremely deadly) chemicals are used at refineries, you’d most likely be very, very concerned about any amount of “smoke” being released into the atmosphere… There are some that, if you get it on your skin, it will very quickly eat through your soft tissue until it reaches a calcium source (i.e. bone…). Not very pleasant.

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  3. James says:

    I cannot imagine the smell that was coming from that refinery. We have a refinery here in town and the smell on a good day is enough to gag a person…

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  4. iamnotashamedofthegospelofchrist says:

    Thanks for the update alvin. Any ideas as to what caused it? Annemarie one of the reasons I love this site is because we can all give our opinions and we do so respectful of each other. The article itself saYs a worker was nauseous. From the smell. I’ve been around a few big fires and the smoke lingers for a long time. And we all know the chemicals they use in refinerys are dangerous. Sp thanks diggs for the update. Keep us posted.

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  5. StevenJ says:

    Just a little more info for those interested on what “could” have been released during and after the fire – this is used as a catalyst during the refining process. (Source: Wikepedia): “Hydrogen fluoride gas is a severe poison that may immediately and permanently damage lungs and the corneas of the eyes. Aqueous
     hydrofluoric acid is a contact-poison with the potential for deep, initially painless burns and ensuing tissue death. By interfering with body calcium metabolism, the concentrated acid may also cause systemic toxicity and eventual cardiac arrest and fatality, after contact with as little as 160 cm2 (25 square inches) of skin.

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