Chevron refinery fire at Richmond, as taken by Mimi Vitetta from a tower in Richmond

[See updates below]

Chevron officials are recommending that anyone who lives from Richmond south to north Oakland  to “shelter in place” to avoid breathing toxic fumes from the fire that broke out at the refinery around 6: 40 pm.

Even though Berkeley police had not received notice by 9:30 pm to warn Berkeley residents to shut their windows and stay indoors, a Chevron spokesman said they should.

“The shelter in place goes to north Oakland so it does extend into Berkeley,” said John McGowan, a Chevron spokesman.

(Note: There is no official “shelter in place for Berkeley; see explanation below.)

People in the affected area should shut their doors and windows, turn off their fans, close fireplace dampers, and cover cracks around windows and doors with tape or damp towels.

The fire broke out in a process unit at the Chevron refinery in Richmond. Diesel fuel came into contact with some metal, which ignited it, according to news reports. Dozens of firefighters are on the scene, according to various news reports. Many people have gone to emergency rooms to report they are having  difficulty breathing. The North Berkeley BART station was closed briefly, but is now open.

As many as 160,000 have been told to shelter in place, according to KRON News.

Watch a livestream of the fire and related news coverage at UStream.
Chevron press release on fire 

10:15 pm: According to KRON News, the official “shelter in place” is only in effect for Richmond, North Richmond and San Pablo. The Contra Costa Health Services Department has issued a health advisory for El Cerrito, according to KRON. However, residents all around the East Bay are apparently feeling effects of toxic fumes, such as heavy lungs, difficult breathing, etc.

10:33 pm: Heather Kulp from Chevron just told KRON that the fire at the refinery is fully contained, but is not fully doused yet. Chevron will hold a community meeting to talk to neighbors at 6:30 pm on Tuesday.

11:09 pm: The city of Berkeley just issued this press release:


Berkeley, California (Monday, August 06, 2012) – There is a fire at the Chevron Refinery in Richmond.  There is a shelter-in-place order for Richmond, North Richmond, and San Pablo.

There is currently no shelter-in-place order for Berkeley.  Berkeley’s Public Health and Toxic’s Divisions recommend that people who smell smoke, even if not in a shelter-in-place area, should stay inside with windows and doors closed, and air conditioners turned off.  This is especially important for people with respiratory conditions.  Concerned residents may want to follow the same precautions overnight tonight, even without smelling smoke.

All residents are advised to avoid the shelter-in-place areas until the shelter-in-place advisory is lifted.  Smoke can cause eye, throat, and respiratory irritation and can aggravate breathing problems such as asthma.  Anyone experiencing acute respiratory symptoms should seek medical attention promptly.

More information is available at:

Contra Costa County health department:

Bay Area Air Quality Management District:

Shelter-in-Place instructions:

11:30 pm: Contra Costa County health officials lift “shelter in place” rules.

Mimi Vitetta took this image from a tower in Richmond

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Frances Dinkelspiel, Berkeleyside and CItyside co-founder, is a journalist and author. Her first book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman...