A massive fire struck late Monday at the Chevron refinery in Richmond that sent thick black smoke all over the Bay Area.
It was reported that the fire broke out at 6:15 p.m., with flames visible at the top of two refinery stacks. According to the local authorities, one employee suffered a minor injury and was receiving first aid treatment.
Residents of Richmond, The North Oakland Hills, North Richmond, West Richmond, Rodeo, El Cerrito and San Pablo were ordered to stay in their homes with the windows and doors closed until the situation could be resolved.
The orders were canceled around 11:15 p.m.
“I walked outside and saw what looked like a lot of steam coming out of Chevron, way more than usual. I thought they must have blown a boiler,” said Ryan Lackay, a 45-year-old employee at a chemical plant next door to the refinery.
“And then all of a sudden it just went whoosh, it ignited.”
Crews determined there was a diesel leak from a line in the crude unit that may have started the fire, Melissa Ritchie, a Chevron spokeswoman at the plant said. She declined to confirm the definite cause of the incident.
The Richmond plant can process 240,000 barrels a day of feedstock, data compiled by Bloomberg show. The plant is about 110 years old, according to the company’s website.
The refinery is the largest in the San Francisco Bay Area and accounts for nearly 10% of the refining capacity in the U.S. West Coast.
In 2006, an explosion at the plant sent hundreds of people to the hospital. There also incidents in 1999, and 2007.