Explosions tore through a Chevron oil refinery as it erupted in flames yesterday, driving toll takers from the Richmond Bridge and San Francisco Bay Area residents indoors. At least two fires were triggered when a diesel leak exploded at the Richmond refinery, one of the largest in the nation, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. There were no fatalities and no one was seriously injured. The plant was evacuated after workers spotted the leak. Minutes after the explosions, plant alarms alerted nearby residents to stay indoors with doors and windows shut to avoid breathing toxins in the air. Residents in all of Contra Costa County in the East Bay were being told to stay inside as hazmat trucks drove through streets taking air samples. Health officials, concerned about fumes from crude oil and diesel fuel, said that so far the winds seem to be carrying most of the smoke skyward.
Dozens of people complaining about breathing problems headed to local emergency rooms. One patient with a burning throat and sore, itchy eyes, told the Chronicle: "They told me I'm not going to die, but it sure feels pretty serious." The fire was contained late last night as a crew of 60 firefighters battled the blaze with nitrogen and steam to keep it cool, but Chevron officials offered no estimate as to when the fire would be extinguished, NBC reports. The 1,200-worker refinery is Northern California's largest, the third biggest in the state, and is capable of processing more than 242,000 barrels of oil a day. (Read more Chevron stories.)