Bay Area residents flood hospitals with breathing problems after Richmond refinery fire

Eric Risberg/AP

Smoke pours from a fire at the Chevron Richmond Refinery, seen behind Alcatraz Island in San Francisco, Monday, Aug. 6, 2012.

Small amounts of materials are burning in Chevron's refinery near San Francisco after a fire Monday night sent black smoke over Bay Area cities, according to a hazardous materials official.

Scores of residents went to hospitals complaining of breathing problems early Tuesday. Smoke and flames could be seen for miles.

The blaze at Chevron's plant in Richmond, about 10 miles northeast of San Francisco, was contained late Monday although company spokeswoman Heather Kulp said it was not immediately known when the flames would be extinguished.

A shelter-in-place order for Richmond, North Richmond and San Pablo was lifted around 11:15 p.m.

Contra Costa County hazardous materials program director Randy Sawyer tells the San Jose Mercury News early Tuesday smoke was not leaving the refinery property. Well over 200 people went to hospitals with breathing problems.

Residents said they heard loud blasts around 6:15 p.m., when the fire broke out, although Chevron officials could not confirm those reports.

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