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Benicia Port fire burns second day as crews battle limited access, creosote-soaked timber

A four-alarm fire that started at Benicia Port on Saturday has slowed considerably, the city said Sunday morning, but is expected to continue burning throughout the day.

The fire started at 2:20 p.m. Saturday at the base of a set of commercial silos that hold refining fuel material before it is loaded into tanker ships.

Benicia Fire Chief Josh Chadwick said during a press conference recorded Saturday night:

“It has been a very, very difficult situation to extinguish.” 

The only way to fight it is via fire boats, which have limited access depending on the tide. Six fire boats from around the Bay Area were sent to the scene, as well as U.S. Coast Guard vessels.

Benicia Fire Department Smoke seen billowing from a fire at the Benicia Port prompts air quality alerts in neighboring cities like Concord, Calif. on Saturday, April 9, 2022. (Courtesy of Benicia Fire Department)

Chadwick said the blaze initially traveled up to the top of a conveyer belt then dropped down to the asphalt pier, catching it on fire.

The San Francisco Fire Department boat was able to make significant progress overnight, the city said in a statement, and the Redwood City Fire Department boat will remain to fight several small pockets of fire that remain, along with two Benicia Fire Department engine companies.

Favorable wind conditions have helped keep the air quality threats to the public at a minimum, and as of Sunday morning there is very little smoke at the scene.

The Dutra Group has arrived with a large crane to aid in trenching asphalt on the pier. This will allow access to the timber fire under the asphalt.

No information about the cause of the fire has been released.

The city is working with Valero Benicia Refinery and Amports to aid with port operations.

The Amports pier is home to numerous potential hazardous materials. The wood that’s burning is soaked in creosote, a wood preservative, and there are tanks of gasoline housed there, Chadwick said.

Chadwick said a previous similar pier fire in the area burned for a couple of days.

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