RICHMOND, California (Reuters) - A Chevron refinery fire in Richmond, California, sent flames as high as 100 feet into the air on Monday, but was quickly contained and was not expected to affect production, officials said.
“It looks like the fire is contained to a small area in the crude unit,” where the fire started, said Tony Semenza, executive director of Contra Costa County’s emergency response, who estimated the maximum height of the flames at 75 to 100 feet.
Chevron officials said the fire was being allowed to burn itself out and was expected to be extinguished on Monday.
”We don’t expect this event to affect the current production plan at the refinery, since the crude unit was at the beginning of a planned maintenance cycle,“ spokesman Dean O‘Hair said in a statement. ”However, at this time we don’t know the full extent of the damage.
He said Chevron was investigating the cause of the incident.
County officials issued a warning early Monday that recommended residents stay in their homes, but lifted it after three hours when no toxic substances were detected in the air around Richmond.
A worker at the scene of the fire suffered first-degree burns to his neck and was treated at a hospital and released, company spokesman Walt Gill said.
A notice Chevron filed with the California emergency services office said the flames broke out at the refinery’s No. 4 crude unit. The refinery area overlooks a scenic section of the San Francisco Bay to the east of San Francisco and northwest of Berkeley and Oakland.
Toll collectors at the nearby Richmond Bridge, which links to Marin County, were briefly evacuated as a precaution and drivers were allowed a rare free trip over the bridge, said Merlin Turner, battalion chief for the Richmond Fire Department.
The Chevron Richmond refinery, which is more than 100 years old, has a production capacity of 243,000 barrels per day.
The refinery began shutting down units for an annual overhaul on Friday. According to Semenza, Monday’s fire started in a crude unit that was being shut down.