12,000 residents living in San Francisco Bay were told to stay indoors by authorities after a local oil facility erupted in flame. Residents were also told to keep doors and windows closed and locked. Although the fire is finally under control, it took nearly the entire day to extinguish. It erupted at about 2 p.m. yesterday afternoon at the Nustar oil and refined products facility in Crockett, California.
According to the Contra Costa Health Department, there was the potential for a hazardous materials emergency in Crockett and Rodeo.
Contra announced, “Cover any cracks around doors or windows with tape or damp towels. Stay off the phone unless you need to report a life-threatening emergency at your location.”
The Contra Costa Fire Department was quick to respond. “This is a very dynamic, rapidly evolving situation,” said Captain George Laing. According to Laing’s statement, tanks were “releasing chemicals that are still burning.”
The exploded tanks held ethanol. One held about 167,000 gallons. It took the brave efforts of around 200 firefighters to combat the out of control fire using a combination of foam and water.
Major rush hour traffic jams resulted with authorities temporarily shut down I-80.
Some residents were trying to get back home, to no avail. Rodeo resident Gabriel Iturbe’s teenage son had called to tell him about a nearby explosion. “It literally rocked the house and then soon after, he heard what sounded like a jet plane.”
Although the three tanks posed an immediate and present danger, they held only a minute fraction of the facility’s total storage capacity. Some people suspect that the fire may be related to the 4.5-magnitute temblor that was felt on Monday night near Oakland. The earthquake caused other oil refineries to go on high alert when they suffered malfunctions to some of their equipment.
Inhalation of burning ethanol (or alcohol) can be hazardous to health. The substance is a by-product of alcohol fermentation and mixes well with solvents — which is why it is used frequently for fuel. It is also used in varnishes, nail polish removers, perfumes, biofuels, medicine, cleaning products, and beauty products.
Consumption of ethanol can result in brain damage, coma, and death. It is not yet known whether or not the substance is a carcinogen. When handling ethanol, keep the substance away from open flame! Use a respirator, boots, rubber gloves, an industrial apron, safety goggles, and a face shield. If you suspect you have inhaled ethanol, move to an open space outdoors (or in the case of oil facility explosions, follow the directions of local authorities).