As choking smoke from the Tesoro Golden Eagle refinery drifted eastward, health officials in the Bay Area advised people with asthma or breathing problems to stay indoors. The flares were caused by the emergency shutdown at the refinery due to sudden power outage burned gases that released thick black smoke.

While the health officials had not received any health complaints due to the thick smoke they issued shelter-in-place alerts. Shelter-in-place orders were issued for Clyde, North Concord and East Martinez. Residents in Bay Point and other locations downwind of the plant where the smoke was blowing were cautioned to stay indoors.

In Martinez, the Community Awareness and Emergency Response network started responding by sounding emergency sirens and informing people about the shelter-in-place order. The sheriff’s office in Contra Costa also asked people to stay indoors, especially those who experienced eye, skin, nose or throat irritation and rinse the affected area with water. In an emergency email, all the residents of the area were asked to close all windows and doors, and to turn off heaters, air conditioners and fans. They were also asked to shut fireplace dampers and vents and covering cracks around doors and windows with tape or damp towels to avoid the thick smoke from getting in.

The sudden flare up was caused because the power outage led to an emergency shutdown of the refinery, and the gases were automatically routed to the flares. This is done to avoid explosion which can occur if the pressure went up too high due to chemicals not being able to move in the refinery.