Contra Costa County Fire: Fire contained at NuStar energy facility in Crockett near Rodeo

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Wednesday, October 16, 2019
Fire breaks out at NuStar facility in Crockett
A fire raging at a fuel storage facility in the East Bay prompted a hazardous materials emergency Tuesday afternoon that led authorities to order about 12,000 people in two communities to stay inside with all windows and doors closed.After a seven-hour battle, crews have contained a fire at the NuStar energy facility in the East Bay.

CROCKETT, Calif. -- After a seven-hour battle, crews have contained a fire at the NuStar energy facility in the East Bay.

Two tanks, one of which collapsed, caught fire sending large plumes of black smoke into the air that could be seen in the area and in other parts of the Bay Area. The fire broke out before two Tuesday afternoon.

As of 8:59 Tuesday night, Contra Costa Fire officials say the fire has been contained. County Environmental Health HazMat teams are working to assess the current health threat in Crockett, Rodeo, and Hercules.

Combined, the tanks held 250,000 gallons of ethanol, which is used as an additive for gasoline.

Officials said that there were workers at the facility when the fire erupted-- none of them were hurt.

The cause of the fire has yet to be identified.

The fire was so intense that it threatened other tanks as well, some containing jet fuel and the others had more ethanol.

VIDEO: Explosion at NuStar Energy facility caught on camera

According to officials, vegetation fires that were caused by the tank fire were quickly contained and put out. In total, 15 acres of grass burned around the facility.

NuStar provided a statement about the incident which said:

"NuStar is working with first responders to extinguish a fire at its Selby Terminal in Crockett, CA. There are two impacted tanks, which were holding very low volumes of ethanol - less than 1% of tank capacity.

All personnel are safe and accounted for.

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.
That is all of the information we have to provide at this time, but we will pass along additional information as it becomes available.

Around 9:30 p.m. on Tuesday, the CHP announced it was reopening both directions of I-80.However, the day's closure caused significant back-ups, and delays remained until 10:15 p.m.

Sky7 was over traffic moving on I-80, near Highway 4, right after the freeway reopened.

After hours of traffic back up on the I-80, drivers are seeing clear roads now that a fire at the Nustar energy facility has been contained.

This was a welcome sight for those who spent their afternoons trying to maneuver around the shutdown.

All that time in traffic made it easy to notice the frustration on the faces of drivers.

I-80 shutdowns were first in place before 3 p.m. on Tuesday. By 4 p.m., both east and westbound traffic near the burning NuStar facility forced drivers to find alternate routes.

Of course, the timing made the afternoon commute crunch even more crowded.

Even as the day grew later, traffic didn't let up leading to the closures.

Crockett resident Andrzej Makaruk spoke with ABC7 News about his frustration.

"I've just been driving from Oakland- 3 and a half hours," he said. "I wish I checked Waze. It would've known a better way when I was in Oakland, to send me back to 680 because it wasn't that bad then. And go around that way, and go through the back way. I would've been home hours ago."

Even off the freeway, there was little relief for those traveling short distances.

Streets near Appian Way in Pinole were clogged by people trying to navigate through the mess.

"Usually it takes five minutes to get here, ten minutes at worst," Pinole resident, Katrina McIntyre said. "And it was like, ,30 minutes. I'm like, 'Oh my God.'"

According to ConFIRE, "Cummings Skyway between I-80 and San Pablo Ave will remain closed for the NuStar incident command post throughout the night."

Contra Costa County health officials are called this a "hazardous materials emergency" at the facility in Crockett and Rodeo.

A shelter in place was in effect for Rodeo and Crockett and the unincorporated town of Tormey was evacuated, but an all-clear was given by 9:40 PM for all cities.

"Turn off all heaters, air conditioners, and fans," officials said.

A massive fire at the NuStar Energy Facility in Crockett sent a thick plume of black smoke into the air, and it could be seen in other parts of the Bay Area.

ABC7 News Reporter Leslie Brinkley contacted nearby hospitals. She says Kaiser Hospital in Vallejo has some patients concerned about smoke inhalation. Vallejo's Sutter Solano Hospital has not received any patients.

The smoke from the fire also caused the Bay Area Air Quality Management District to issue an air quality advisory for smoke east of Rodeo, along the Carquinez Strait.

Smoke from the Nustar fire may potentially impact areas east of Rodeo, along the Carquinez Strait including but not limited to Benicia, Martinez, Baypoint, Pittsburg and areas to the East. This is based on current meteorological conditions which can change depending on the duration of the fire.

Superintendent Charles Miller originally said all school had been canceled for the John Wett Unified School District because of the fire but since the incident is under control classes will resume as normal.

The Napa County Sheriff's Office shared this video of a massive fire that broke out at the Nu Star Energy Facility in Crockett, Calif. on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019.

Initial reports indicated the fire was at a refinery, creating confusion that the NuStar facility is a refinery.

It is not a refinery. NuStar is an energy company that stores and distributes crude oil, refined products, and specialty liquids.

ABC7 News reporters Amanda Del Castillo, Lisa Amin Gulezian, Lauara Anthony, Luz Pena, Melanie Woodrow, and Lelsie Brinkley contributed to this report.