Smoke poured from Chevron's Richmond refinery on Aug. 6 (Aarti Shahani/KQED)

It could have been worse.

That’s what the chairman of the U.S. Chemical Safety Board is saying about the Aug. 6 Chevron refinery blaze in Richmond, which sent thousands to the hospital complaining of flame-related ailments.

As reported by ABC 7, the chairman of the safety board toured the fire site Monday and noted that there were no deaths:

“We are extremely pleased that there hasn’t been any loss of life here, but still, I think that it behooves us to really look at this as a close call and that we need to look and try to prevent things that could have been starting early with a bigger impact to the community than we saw in this particular fire,” said chairman of the CSB Rafael Moure-Eraso, Ph.D.

The board is among the federal and state investigators looking into the cause of the fire, and on Monday it also released photos of the site and a white cloud that was emitted from the refinery before the blaze. From Reuters:

The CSB has said the vapor cloud enveloped about 20 workers at the refinery before the fire erupted on the 245,000 barrel per day refinery’s sole crude distillation unit.

Chevron, in a statement issued following the CSB news conference, said the vapor cloud may not have led to the blaze, but been a by-product of fire-fighting efforts.

“It is premature to comment on the composition of the white cloud,” Chevron spokeswoman Melissa Ritchie said in a statement.

The board’s investigation has faced some criticism recently. On Friday the San Francisco Chronicle reported that Clyde Trombettas, who is district director for the state’s refinery safety program in Northern California and the lead state investigator in the blaze, posted comments on Facebook accusing the chemical safety board of bias and grandstanding. The Chronicle’s story includes a photo of a Facebook post in which Trombettas writes, “Typical CSB grandstanding in the press. Scaring the public with half truths and misleading information.” The board wouldn’t comment on the post, the Chronicle reported.

Here are some of the photos released by the board; you can find others at the chemical safety board website.

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board released this photo of a white vapor cloud above the Chevron refinery in Richmond, caught fire. Photo by Fototaker.net
The U.S. Chemical Safety Board released this photo of a white vapor cloud above the Chevron refinery in Richmond, caught fire. Photo by Fototaker.net

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board released this photo of a white vapor cloud obscured by smoke above the Chevron refinery in Richmond, which was on fire. Photo by Fototaker.net
The U.S. Chemical Safety Board released this photo of a white vapor cloud obscured by smoke above the Chevron refinery in Richmond, which was on fire. Photo by Fototaker.net

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board released this photo of the aftermath of the Chevron refinery fire in Richmond. Photo by Fototaker.net.
The U.S. Chemical Safety Board released this photo of the aftermath of the Chevron refinery fire in Richmond. Photo by Fototaker.net.

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board released this photo of the aftermath of the Chevron refinery fire in Richmond. Photo by Fototaker.net.
The U.S. Chemical Safety Board released this photo of the aftermath of the Chevron refinery fire in Richmond. Photo by Fototaker.net.

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board released this photo of the aftermath of the Chevron refinery fire in Richmond. Photo by Fototaker.net.
The U.S. Chemical Safety Board released this photo of the aftermath of the Chevron refinery fire in Richmond. Photo by Fototaker.net.

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board released this photo of the aftermath of the Chevron refinery fire in Richmond. Photo by Fototaker.net.
The U.S. Chemical Safety Board released this photo of the aftermath of the Chevron refinery fire in Richmond. Photo by Fototaker.net.

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