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Fire at Chevron refinery contained, shelter-in-place lifted

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Smoke billows from a crude oil unit at the Chevron refinery in Richmond.


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AUGUST 06, 2012

A fire that broke out around 6:30 p.m. on Monday at the Chevron oil refinery in Richmond has been contained, and a shelter-in-place order issued for the affected areas has been lifted, according to news outlets.

According to the Contra Costa County Health Services website, a shelter-in-place order was issued in Richmond, North Richmond and San Pablo following a fire that broke out at the refinery due to the diesel-like combustible liquid burning, but the order was lifted as of 11:12 p.m.

“A controlled burn continues at the refinery but the situation is under control and the shelter-in-place is no longer in effect,” the website reads.

Although Berkeley was not issued a shelter-in-place order, a press release from city spokesperson Mary Kay Clunies-Ross included recommendations from Berkeley’s Public Health and Toxic’s Divisions that people who smell smoke, even if not in a shelter-in-place area, stay inside with windows and doors closed and air conditioners turned off.

Various news outlets reported that local medical centers saw a spike in emergency room visits for patients suffering from respiratory problems during the fire.

According to Alta Bates Summit Medical Center spokesperson Carolyn Kemp, 11 individuals have visited Alta Bates in the past day claiming they were experiencing respiratory problems as a result of the smoke, and seven to eight individuals have visited the Summit campus claiming respiratory problems as well.

The Berkeley Fire Department provided Swaploader trucks Monday night to move large containers of equipment from the refinery since Richmond’s truck was out of service, according to Deputy Fire Chief Gilbert Dong.

BART service to Richmond was temporarily cut off during the incident between North Berkeley and the Richmond station, but was fully restored by 11:30 p.m.

At a press conference earlier in the evening Monday, Chevron’s Richmond Refinery Manager Nigel Hearne apologized to the community surrounding the refinery for the smoke produced by the fire and stated that one employee had sustained minor burns in the accident.

“We apologize for the fire and smoke caused by yesterday’s incident,”

Chevron said in a statement issued to the community Tuesday.

“Nothing is more important than safe operations, and yesterday we did not meet that expectation.”

The company is working to investigate the full cause of the fire, which reportedly started due to a leak of hydrocarbons at the refinery that grew and eventually ignited.

“We will continue to work with government agencies to determine the cause of the incident and see to it that it never happens again,” the statement reads.

Staff writer Karren Moorer contributed to this report.

AUGUST 13, 2012