Refinery explosion leads to massive fire in Bay Area

An explosion and fire ripped through storage tanks at NuStar refinery storage facility Tuesday, sending flames and smoke billowing into the skies, CBS San Francisco reports. The incident began unfolding at around 2 p.m. in the massive petroleum tank storage farm nestled in the hills of Crockett, according to the Vallejo Firefighters Association.

A shelter in place order was issued for residents in Crockett and nearby Rodeo, warning of hazardous materials being released. The smoke plume could be seen for miles, including from San Francisco.

Witnesses reported explosions shaking the area. One woman said she was loading her truck at the refinery when the explosion rocked the facility.

A fire rages after a refinery explosion in California CBS San Francisco

“I had just pulled off the rack and gotten my paperwork,” the woman, identified as Michelle, told CBS San Francisco. “I had my head down doing paperwork and I felt the ground rumble. I knew there was an earthquake yesterday. So I didn’t panic.”

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“But I looked up and saw a bunch of people running,” she added. “I looked and I saw the fire and the smoke. I immediately started my truck and headed up the hill. I got to the top of the Cummings Skyway, and I could see the tops of two tanks completely engulfed in flames.”

She added the tanks stored renewable diesel fuel, not gasoline. 

In a statement, NuStar told CBS News that it is “working with first responders to extinguish a fire at its Selby Terminal in Crockett, CA.” The statement added that there are two impacted tanks, which were holding very low volumes of ethanol -– “less than 1% of tank capacity,” according to the statement.   

“All personnel are safe and accounted for,” the statement added. “NuStar immediately enacted its emergency response procedures.  Adjacent tanks are being cooled to minimize the risk of the fire spreading. We have contacted all regulatory agencies.” 

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