Search warrant served on NuStar facility

Bay Area

CROCKETT (KRON/AP) – NuStar is now in charge of the cleanup of its fuel storage facility that caught fire earlier this week.

This comes as investigators have served a search warrant.

Also joining in on the investigation is the Bay Area Air Quality Management District.

Officials are still trying to determine if a 4.5 magnitude earthquake triggered an explosion at the fuel storage facility that started a fire and trapped thousands in their homes for hours because of potentially unhealthy air.

The earthquake struck about 15 miles southeast from the NuStar Energy fuel storage facility in the Bay Area community of Crockett 15 hours before the Tuesday fire that consumed thousands of gallons of fuel.

Aftershocks in the same area were still being felt Wednesday, including one with a 3.4 magnitude.

State and local inspectors were investigating the fire that shut down the facility, which according to the company has 24 tanks capable of holding more than 3 million barrels of different kinds of fuels.

A firefighter was injured and was treated at a hospital, said Contra Costa Fire Department spokesman Steve Hill, who had no details about the firefighter’s injuries.

Randy Sawyer, Contra Costa County’s chief environmental health and hazardous materials officer, said that Tuesday’s earthquake caused malfunctions at two nearby oil refineries operated by Shell and Marathon oil.

The concern was that hazardous particulates might be spewing from the fire.

County health officials late Tuesday lifted a shelter in place order affecting about 12,000 people. But at least four schools in the area closed on Wednesday as a precaution.

Contra Costa County health department spokesman Karl Fischer did not immediately return a phone message seeking comment.

The fire began at about 2 p.m. at the tank farm, one of several refining and fuel storage facilities in the Carquinez Strait, a major shipping thoroughfare and a key oil hub.

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.

The fire badly damaged or destroyed two tanks containing about 250,000 gallons of ethanol, a gasoline additive. The facility also stores gasoline, diesel and aviation fuels, according to NuStar Energy LP.

About 200 firefighters fought the flames with foam and water, trying to prevent it from spreading to other tanks containing jet fuel and ethanol. They would knock down the flames but they kept reigniting in the spilled fuel.

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