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Fire At Chevron Refinery, Many Go to Hospitals

A fire at the Chevron refinery in Richmond on Monday spewed a huge plume, prompted shelter-in-place warnings, sent many people to local hospitals with respiratory complaints and halted BART. A refinery worker had a minor injury.

Updated at 1:15 a.m., Aug. 7

A large fire erupted at the Chevron refinery around 6:30 p.m. in Richmond on Monday, spewing a huge plume visible for miles, prompting authorities to issue a shelter-in-place warning and causing a large number of people to flock to Doctors Medical Center in San Pablo and Kaiser hospital in Richmond with breathing problems.

Contra Costa Health Services activated its emergency phone notification system and issued a shelter-in-place warning for Richmond, North Richmond and San Pablo. Residents of those communities were urged to remain indoors, and to close all windows and doors and seal any cracks to protect the interior from outside air.

At 11:12 p.m., Health Services issued a notice saying the shelter-in-place advisory had been lifted. A "controlled burn" was continuing at the refinery, the notice said.

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Chevron spokeswoman Heather Kulp told KRON TV at 10:28 p.m. that the fire had been fully contained. The station aired live coverage just before 11 p.m. showing firehoses still spraying water on the fire scene.

Another refinery spokesman, Nigel Hearne, issued an apology at an earlier news conference aired on KRON about 9:35 p.m. and said the cause of the 6:30 p.m. fire in the number 4 crude unit was unknown. 

He also said one worker was treated at the refinery for a minor wrist burn, but Kulp later said the injury was smoke inhalation, not a burn.

Two columns of smoke with flames at their base could be seen from a long distance. Refinery officials said one was a flare burning off excess gas. The columns combined into a high-rising plume visible over large parts of the Bay Area.

KRON cited Chevron officials saying crews noticed a diesel seal had failed, causing fuel to spill inside the refinery. "Something, possibly heated metal, caused a spark that ignited the fuel and caused the fire," according a KRON report.

Contra Costa Health Services said, "A diesel-like combustible liquid is burning at the refinery."

The fire occurred on the eve of  an exhibit in Richmond that's dedicated to the 110th anniversary of the refinery.

Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia said many people had gone to Doctors hospital with respiratory complaints, and KRON TV said the emergency room was "packed" with people experiencing breathing problems, burning eyes and irritation of mucous membranes.

The hospital said extra staff were called in, and that as of 11:30 p.m. about 200 people had sought treatment complaining of respiratory problems and that more continued to arrive. Kaiser Medical Center in Richmond also saw a jump in patients, sources said.

Contra Costa Health Services did not issue a shelter-in-place order for El Cerrito but did issue a health advisory for the city, saying that "people who smell smoke should consider staying inside or avoid the area, especially people with pre-existing respiratory problems."

Oakland police issued a community advisory for residents of the North Oakland hills, saying, "It is suggested to close all windows and doors. Turn off air conditioners. Bring in out door animals. At this time no further precautions are advised."

Kensington Police Chief Greg Harman said he had received a number of calls about the fire, and that there was no shelter-in-place for the township, but that police advised Kensington residents that they should stay indoors if they have concerns about smoke from the fire.

BART service experienced several interruptions. It was shut down between North Berkeley and Richmond, BART said at 8:43 p.m., with service to El Cerrito Plaza and del Norte restored about 9:45 p.m., BART said. Full service on the Richmond line was restored around 11:30 p.m.

All the toll-takers were removed from the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge, according to KRON.

Reports conflicted over whether an explosion had occurred. KTVU cited "plant officials" saying there was no explosion and that there was a single fire and a single flare going off to burn off excess oil or fuel. Two distinct plumes could be seen from miles away in the early stages of fire, one with large flames at the base, possibly from a flare.

Gioia said his information from various sources reported an explosion. KTVU also said a KTVU reporter on scene said she heard alarms, a loud boom and saw a large black plume of smoke and flames. KCBS quoted a resident saying she heard more than one boom.

At one point in the fire, between 200 and 300 people had stopped on nearby Interstate 580 to take photos and videos, largely with cell phones, according to KCBS.

Inspectors from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District were on scene taking air samples to test for potentially hazardous chemicals, Gioia said.

The dark smoke plumes were seen going east in the area over San Pablo and San Pablo Dam Road, KCBS said.

The large plume had partly dissipated by shortly after 8 p.m., KCBS reported.

In addition to the refinery's own firefighters, the El Cerrito and Richmond fire departments along with a hazardous materials unit from Contra Costa County responded to the scene, Gioia said. Other nearby fire departments also were reported to have responded.

Did you see, hear or smell the fire? Let us know in the comments. Share your photographs or videos in the gallery above. 

Bren August 30, 2012 at 11:19 PM
Riv, yes, Redrock probably would blame Chevron's Ecuadorian and Nigerian victims for what happened to them. They're mostly brown and black, after all. He probably thinks Ecuadorians cruise through the rain forest pulling drive-by shootings.
Rob Shea August 30, 2012 at 11:20 PM
I'd like to remind Patch readers to please stay on topic when they are commenting on any given thread. Comments that stray far from the issues addressed in articles are subject to deletion. Those kind of comments don't advance the conversation and often become an unwelcome distraction.
Riv August 30, 2012 at 11:23 PM
Instead of blaming the victims of Chevron's toxic pollution and environmental racism, I'd like to see any of Chevron's supporters actually address my points about Chevron. None of them have addressed: - Chevron's refusal to pay the taxes that Chevron owes to the city of Richmond - Chevron's use of its funds to influence city council elections so that if successful, Chevron's puppet politicians can continue to help Chevron poison the Richmond community without challenge. Chevron spent $1 million in the last Richmond elections for these purposes, plus another $250,000 to support a "Richmond utility tax reform" that would have further exempted Chevron from paying the taxes that Chevron owes. - Chevron's policy of sending Chevron attorneys around to neighborhoods that are impacted by Chevron's contamination in order to coerce residents into signing waivers that waive their right to full and proper compensation from Chevron for the health problems that Chevron has caused them - Chevron's status as the largest stationary source of greenhouse gases in California - Chevron's role in the deaths of people in the Amazon, the Niger Delta, and elsewhere around the world both due to the purposeful and reckless pollution of Indigenous peoples' environments and through violence - Chevron's acquirement of a green electric car lithium battery patent, which Chevron only bought so it could restrict electric car producers from using the battery and creating competition against oil
Bren August 30, 2012 at 11:38 PM
Thank you Rob Shea, I will do my best to abide by Patch's terms of service.
Marcia Kalapus August 30, 2012 at 11:39 PM
Gentlemen and Ladies: I will recant my "verbage" regarding "Testosterone". It was catty after all. @Riv. I am not a racist nor have I ever been or an "environmental "one. You don't know me well enough to call me one either. Thanks everyone it has been an interesting time chatting.
Susan Tarvin August 30, 2012 at 11:42 PM
Thanks Rob, for your editorial leadership, I'm sure it will be a tough job. I love it when people discuss an article, and don't go off into the ozone talking about other unconnected subjects. I, for one, will appreciate your intervention when it's needed.
Redrock August 30, 2012 at 11:50 PM
Sorry Rob.. people who want to sue the city over negligence and abuse are the same people who have called Richmond their home for 40 yrs plus. People who demand better police and fire, better social services better GROCERY stores! They can’t begin to imagine what life would be like WITHOUT Chevron. Money from Pimping, Coke and Crank dealing isn’t going to foot the bill or cover the gap for that wretched wasteland.
Voter with an ID August 31, 2012 at 01:46 AM
I recant,too, although you were pretty close to the target, hence the reaction from riv. Riv, I really hope the residents of Richmond figure out (before its too late) what benefits Chevron bring sto the city. I also hope you realize there's nothing racial about any of this topic and that racism is not limited to 'people of color', whatever color you choose. People don't have to make themselves victims unless that's part of their culture, legacy, etc. that they want to perpetuate. Even then, it's the 21st Century and it's time to move on.........
Bren August 31, 2012 at 02:31 AM
Steve wrote: I recant,too, although you were pretty close to the target, hence the reaction from riv. Riv, I really hope the residents of Richmond figure out (before its too late) what benefits Chevron bring sto the city. I also hope you realize there's nothing racial about any of this topic and that racism is not limited to 'people of color', whatever color you choose. People don't have to make themselves victims unless that's part of their culture, legacy, etc. that they want to perpetuate. Even then, it's the 21st Century and it's time to move on......... --------------------------------------------------------- What, exactly, are you recanting? You're still blaming the victims, implying that they somehow voluntarily chose to become victims. It wasn't liberal ideology they breathed into their lungs, Steve. It was (and is) toxic chemicals. Furthermore, the residents of Richmond are fully aware of the meager benefits Chevron brings to their city. They are increasingly speaking out and telling us those meager benefits do not outweigh the harm that Chevron is doing to their health and environment.
Richmond Tree Hugger August 31, 2012 at 04:16 AM
From our historical perspective... antagonism will not help us... http://www.umich.edu/~snre492/sherman.html Chevron has a lot of power and money that could be used for the good of the community. It's better to have a relationship of goodwill and unity than one of antagonism and division.
Richmond Tree Hugger August 31, 2012 at 04:36 AM
http://www.richmondprogressivealliance.net/Issues/CityGovt.html Chevron agreed to pay $114 into the City's general fund over the next 15 years in exchange for protection from any additional tax increases during that time. Is that a good price? Maybe it is, but I'm not sure. It is quite a lot less than splitting the difference between the opening bids. We've been told that Richmond initally asked for $300 million over 15 years and Chevron offered $40 million, so $170 million would have been right down the middle This is no small chump change... I've seen posts about Chevron goig away... if they go away... this probably would too... this frightens me. we cant stop the crime we hav now... we may not like what happens... but we will really not like what happens if they leave.
Richmond Tree Hugger August 31, 2012 at 04:47 AM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EOO8bewSlzk With youtubes like this.... how could Chevron or anyone else for that matter take anytihing seriously... no wonder they blow us off.... I wouldnt blame them. FACTS, real FACTS will be the only thing that counts. last i heard on the news somewhere, there were only 3 real cases tht the county said were attributed to the fire for health damages. wont be suprised if chevron only settles with those 3
Richmond Tree Hugger August 31, 2012 at 05:12 AM
http://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2012/04/03/chevron-facing-more-taxes-on-richmond-refinery/ Did Chevron ever pay the additional 26.7 million ??? is this part of the taxes others here are refering to?
Bren August 31, 2012 at 05:13 AM
Richmond Tree Hugger wrote: Chevron has a lot of power and money that could be used for the good of the community. It's better to have a relationship of goodwill and unity than one of antagonism and division. ------------------------------------------ I recently met and talked with Suana Bere, an activist who was tortured by mercenaries who worked for Chevron, tortured because he dared speak out against Chevron's wildly destructive behavior in the Niger Delta. How much "goodwill and unity" or common ground do you expect the people of Richmond to find with a company that hires soldiers of fortune to torture people who disagree with it?
Bren August 31, 2012 at 05:17 AM
Richmond Tree Hugger wrote: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EOO8bewSlzk With youtubes like this.... how could Chevron or anyone else for that matter take anytihing seriously... no wonder they blow us off.... I wouldnt blame them. FACTS, real FACTS will be the only thing that counts... ----------------------------------------------------------------- Did you not see the words "school project" underneath that video? And what do you mean, "us"? I seriously doubt that you are a Richmond resident or an actual tree hugger. You've stooped to the level of making fun of some kid's school project in order to cast aspersions on those of us who are fighting to have Chevron held accountable for its actions. I don't think you're one of us at all. If I was going to take a wild guess, I'd say you're probably another Chevron shareholder or employee.
Richmond Tree Hugger August 31, 2012 at 05:28 AM
Thanks for bringing that to my attention. it does make me thingk tho that is there a reliable video... otherwize when people like me google richmond and environmental racism... this is what comes up..... if we fight chevron... we have to be better than they are at their own game. if they are 1%... it means we must have 99% more resources... yahhh right... I have ten kajillion shares of that company... have you seen what a share of their stock goes for?
Richmond Tree Hugger August 31, 2012 at 05:32 AM
Bren this post and quote... came from the webpage listed... right off of the west county toxics coalition web page. not my quote. they'rs i think it was just about what happened in richmond and had nothing to do with the niger delta
Bren August 31, 2012 at 05:37 AM
Sorry if I misjudged you, Richmond Tree Hugger. If you look at the comment history here, you might understand why I might be a little skeptical of any newcomer. Regarding your 1% vs. 99% analogy, that doesn't quite add up. Chevron's resources are considerably vaster than the resources available to the folks who are fighting them.
Richmond Tree Hugger August 31, 2012 at 05:52 AM
resources come in all kinds, sizes and colors. if they have 1,000 people and we have about 100,000 people id say we have them also = i looked you up, and your profile says u dont even live here why the interest?
Richmond Tree Hugger August 31, 2012 at 05:53 AM
did they pay
Bren August 31, 2012 at 06:00 AM
Richmond Tree Hugger also = i looked you up, and your profile says u dont even live here why the interest? ------------------------------------------------------------------ I have a dear friend whose father was orphaned because of Chevron. My friend never got to meet her grandparents because Chevron filled their rain forest home with poison.
Richmond Tree Hugger August 31, 2012 at 06:04 AM
ok now i see why u r here to
Richmond Tree Hugger August 31, 2012 at 06:11 AM
Current City of Richmond Budget = 91,093,663 http://www.ci.richmond.ca.us/index.aspx?NID=2454 Current expected revenues from utility tax 52,456,890 Chevron pays about 20 million = about 40% of this tax revenue http://www.sfgate.com/business/article/Chevron-Richmond-end-dispute-over-taxes-3188996.php Chevron, based in San Ramon, will continue to pay roughly the same utility tax bill that it does now - about $20 million a year. The company also will pay an additional $114 million in taxes spread over the next 15 years. What percentige of the property tax does chevron pay for the city? anyone know? like i said above - did they ever pay?
Richmond Tree Hugger August 31, 2012 at 06:26 AM
does anybody know if any chevron people had to go to the hospital - or city fire fighters had to go to the hospital from breathing those fumes n smoke? you'd think they would have people that were harmed too if so many other people are injured. that would be an interesting piece of information to have. i think i read some report that at least one fireman was injured due to smoke. i wonder if there were more that we just dont know about
Riv August 31, 2012 at 06:29 AM
@Steve - To victim-blame people of color for the discrimination that they face is patently racist. Furthermore, your comments don't even make much sense. You are uninformed as to how history, racism, and Chevron's ongoing victimization of a marginalized community are inseparably interconnected. Discrimination = power + prejudice. That is the accepted academic definition and the definition used by activists of color because it explains the relationship between prejudice and the need for that prejudice to be backed up by systemic power in order for the prejudice to have any power. If you're not a person of color, then you have no right to judge how people of color define their experience. And many people of color define their experience with Chevron as involving environmental racism. Environmental racism occurs when Chevron uses its leverage as the wealthiest company in California in order to coerce poor and lower middle class people of color into giving up their legal rights just so those people can still pay their rent or feed their families after the money they had to shell out for refinery contamination-related hospital bills. This is a Chevron policy that relies on Richmond residents' lack of social and financial power in order to work. You should visit Colorlines and Color of Change online. Do some research as to how and why racism is an ongoing issue. You are seriously out of touch with the political realities of our country's racist/discriminatory policies.
Riv August 31, 2012 at 06:49 AM
@Redrock - Again, the Chevron Oil Refinery only employs about 1,000 people and less than 100 of those employees are Richmond residents. Chevron is suing Richmond and Contra Costa County in an attempt to get back taxes Chevron already paid (about $100 million). Chevron regularly lobbies for politicians and policies that would benefit Chevron to the detriment of the rest of the Richmond community. Chevon doesn't provide for the Richmond community. To the contrary, Chevron steals from Richmond. Moreover, your assumption that "Pimping, Coke and Crank dealing" is the only alternative way for Richmond residents to support themselves is racist. I know plenty of people who live in Richmond who are good hardworking citizens and who would be very offended at your suggestion that they are incapable of doing well for themselves by regular legal means. Richmond residents want clean air, safe soil for their community gardens, and a healthy environment for their children. And they are perfectly capable of continuing to run successful community gardens that help to feed Richmond kids enrolled in Richmond children's programs. They are perfectly capable of continuing to install solar panels on their businesses. If they want to, they could replace Chevron altogether with one or more green industry businesses - businesses that would actually pay their taxes in order to support the city of Richmond. I'm presenting facts. Your comments say nothing factual and are based in racism.
Riv August 31, 2012 at 06:56 AM
@Steve - I would highly recommend that you listen to this Richmond community meeting about all of the negative, toxic effects that Chevron has had on Richmond before you make claims about Chevron's "benefits". You can listen or download it here: http://www.kpfa.org/archive/id/83725 Please see my comments about Chevron's long history of refusing to pay its taxes to the city of Richmond, Chevron's very low employment rate (less than 100 out of about 1,000 Chevron Oil Refinery workers in Richmond are Richmond residents), and Chevron's human rights abuses both here and abroad.
Emilie Raguso August 31, 2012 at 01:30 PM
In case folks don't know, you can always click the "stop following" button right above the comments if you'd like to stop receiving comment email alerts.
Richmond Tree Hugger August 31, 2012 at 03:43 PM
cheveron has plenty of money to do whatever they want. its just up to Richmond to get them to let their purse strings loose. this was carried on the motley fool yesterday http://beta.fool.com/peterpham8/2012/08/30/why-chevron-hoarding-cash/10904/?ticker=AAPL&source=eogyholnk0000001
CHACHA September 01, 2012 at 08:58 AM
Curious, how much money did Chevron spend/contribute to the State of California and Federal political (presidential, congressmen, senators, legislators) election campaign funds, lobbyist, over the past few years compared to other comparable large-sized Corporations (ie top-Fortune 50 companies both in/outside of Big-Oil/Mobil Exxon, Union, Shell, Ford Motor, GM, etc)???

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