Health warning lifted over fire at California oil facility

CROCKETT, California (AP) – Authorities have lifted shelter-in-place orders for some 12,000 people in Northern California after containment of a fire at a fuel storage facility that sent up a huge cloud of smoke.

Emergency sirens blared and thick plumes of black smoke and flames filled the skyline around the NuStar Energy LP facility in Crockett, California, about 50 kilometres northeast of downtown San Francisco.

The fire was finally contained at about 9pm and county health officials lifted the shelter-in-place health orders after determining that the air quality was safe, officials said at a news conference.

People were urged to open their windows to air out their homes. The primary concern to the public was hazardous particulates spewing from the fire.

Video footage of the fire showed flames leading up to an explosion so strong it blew the lid of one of the tanks high into the air.

“This is a very dynamic, rapidly evolving situation,” Captain George Laing of the Contra Costa Fire Department said. “We’ve got two tanks that are releasing chemicals that are still burning.”

Contra Costa Fire Department spokesman Steve Hill said the two burning tanks contained about 250,000 gallons of ethanol, a gasoline additive, and firefighters tried to keep the blaze from spreading to other tanks storing jet fuel. At an evening news conference Hill corrected an earlier report in which he had said three tanks caught fire.

About 200 firefighters battled the blaze, Hill said.

A tank burns as fire breaks out at a refinery in Crockett, California. PHOTO: AP