This morning, a major Chevron oil refinery caught fire, blanketing the San Francisco bay area in thick black smoke. Residents were warned to stay inside if possible, turn off air conditioning and keep the windows rolled up in their cars.
The fire was contained by 11 p.m. (2 a.m. ET), according to the company. The fire blazed for hours after it erupted at the refinery in a densely populated industrial suburb east of San Francisco. Smoke could be seen billowing over the Bay Area and four train stations were shut. Thousands of local residents were ordered to stay indoors and shut all windows and doors after the fire hit the sole crude unit at the 245,000 barrel per day plant, which accounts for one-eighth of California state’s refining capacity. But that order was later lifted.
“I heard a big boom … then the alarms started going off,” 23-year-old local resident Daniela Rodriguez told the Contra Costa Times.
“I was getting kind of scared. I went into my backyard and could see a big, dark gray cloud. I saw it was coming from where the refinery is, so I told my mom to lock the windows,” the newspaper quoted her as saying.
The plume from the fire reached an estimated 3,000 to 4,000 feet above ground level, officials said at a news conference, according to the Times.
All workers had been accounted for and no fatalities were reported, but one employee was treated at an on-site clinic for burns to his wrist, the San Francisco Chronicle said. About 200 people have sought medical help, complaining of respiratory problems, the San Pablo, Calif.-based Doctors Medical Center said in a statement.
“They told me I’m not going to die, but it sure feels pretty serious,” 21-year-old Richmond resident Julius Bailey told the Chronicle after seeing a doctor for respiratory complaints at Kaiser’s Richmond Medical Center.
The fire had started in the No. 4 crude unit, the only one at the plant, at 6:15 p.m. shortly after a leak was discovered, Chevron said.
As the leak grew, workers were evacuated, plant manager Nigel Hearn told journalists at the site. He said some units were still operating, but gave no details.
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