A large fire erupted at the Chevron refinery around 6:40 p.m. in Richmond Monday night, spewing a huge plume visible for miles and prompting authorities to issue a shelter-in-place warning.
Flames were seen shooting out of at least two towers at the refinery.
People in Marin, especially near the bayside, were spotted getting out of their cars to take photos of the towering plume of smoke that was easily visible across the bay.
Contra Costa Health Services activated its emergency phone notification system and issued a shelter-in-place warning for Richmond, North Richmond and San Pablo. Residents were urged to remain indoors, and to close all windows and doors and seal any cracks to protect the interior from outside air.
A refinery spokeswoman told KCBS that the fire erupted in the 4 crude unit and that no refinery workers had been injured.
KTVU reported that officials have issued a level-3 community warning, meaning that the fire can cause eye, skin, nose or respiratory irritation.
Randy Sawyer of Contra Costa Health Services said the fire was reported about 6:40 p.m., according to Bay City News service. The refinery fire department put the time about 6:30 p.m., KTVU reported.
The Richmond BART station was closed, several news sources reported.
Cash-paying motorists crossing the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge Monday night were not being charged a toll, according to the California Highway
A Caltrans spokesman was not immediately available for comment, but a CHP officer said toll takers were sheltering in place at the toll plaza office because of the fire burning at the nearby Chevron refinery. He said cash-paying motorists are able to pass through the toll plaza without paying, but that drivers with FasTrak might still be charged.
Officials said there was no explosion and there is a single fire and a single flare that is going off to burn off excess oil or fuel, KTVU said.
A KTVU reporter on scene said she heard alarms, a loud boom and saw a large black plume of smoke and flames.
Between 200 and 300 people had stopped on nearby Interstate 580 to take photos and videos, largely with cell phones, according to KCBS.
Kensington Police Chief Greg Harman said he had received a number of calls about the fire and issued a statement saying, "There is no danger to Kensington residents at this time."
The dark smoke plumes were seen going east in the area over San Pablo and San Pablo Dam Road, KCBS said.
The large plume had partly dissipated by shortly after 8 p.m., KCBS reported.
A new alarm siren sounded about 8 p.m., the radio station said.