HAZMAT fire shuts parts of I-80 in both directions

Sukey Lewis/KQED

Interstate Highway 80 is shut down in both directions between state Highway 4 and the Carquinez Bridge on Tuesday afternoon due to a fire burning at the NuStar Energy facility in or near the Crockett area of unincorporated Contra Costa County.

Firefighters said three large tanks of ethanol were burning Tuesday afternoon at a tank farm facility associated with an oil refinery in the Crockett area of unincorporated Contra Costa County, but no injuries or deaths have been reported. The California Highway Patrol began receiving 911 calls about the fire around 1:50 p.m. at the NuStar Energy facility at 90 San Pablo Ave. in Crockett.

According to a statement from NuStar, the affected tanks were holding less than 1 percent of their total capacity and adjacent tanks are being cooled to reduce the risk of the fire spreading. County Supervisor John Gioia wrote on Twitter that the explosion was felt for miles, and residents in Rodeo and Crockett have been asked to shelter in place. Fire officials also say the unincorporated community of Tormey has been evacuated.

Randy Sawyer, chief environmental health and hazardous materials officer for Contra Costa County, said around 2:45 p.m. that hazardous materials specialists were en route. A second 5-acre grass fire has also been ignited near the tanks, according to Cal Fire. Steve Hill, a spokesman for the Contra Costa County Fire Protection District, said that while the district is not the lead agency on the fire, they are sending resources to assist. Sheriff’s deputies say a number of road closures have been issued in the area.

Contra Costa Health Services has issued a statement calling the fire a “hazardous materials emergency,” advising nearby residents to go inside, close all windows and doors and turn off all heaters, air conditioners and fans. People are advised to close fireplace vents as well, and consider covering any cracks around doors and windows with tape or damp towels. People in the area have also been asked to stay off their phones and avoid tying up 911 dispatchers with additional reports unless a new emergency occurs.

More information about how to shelter in place is available on the county’s website here.

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