press release

Unocal refinery fire quickly extinguished; joint response team credited

Rodeo, Calif., May 17, 1996 -- At approximately 0500 PDT today a fire was reported at the coke processing unit at Unocal Corporation's refinery in Rodeo, California. Emergency response teams and agencies were notified immediately. By 0730 PDT joint response teams had contained the fire and no flames could be seen outside the unit. By 0900 PDT the fire had been completely extinguished. As a precautionary measure, the emergency response team will continue to put water and steam on the unit to prevent any further upset. All other refinery operations are normal.

All personnel have been accounted for. No employees or emergency responders were injured in the incident; one member of the response team is being examined for possible exhaustion.

The Contra Costa County Community Alert Network (CAN) was activated by the Contra Costa County Department of Health Services for Crockett, Tormey and Rodeo. Residents were advised to avoid the smoke. At 0815 PDT the county activated the CAN a second time, advising residents that the fire was contained and controlled and that they were free to go about normal activities.

As a precautionary measure, air sampling and industrial hygiene monitoring are being conducted in local communities and there have been no detectable levels of hydrocarbons or other chemicals.

In addition to Unocal's emergency responders, the refinery was strongly and cooperatively supported by the Rodeo-Hercules and Crockett-Carquinez Fire Protection Districts as well as from fire and emergency crews from Richmond and Pinole. Crews from other facilities including, Shell, Exxon, Chevron, Tosco and Dow Chemical also responded to the call for mutual aid as part of the industry's contingency plan for emergency events.

"We were able to contain the fire quickly because of the outstanding response from our own emergency crew as well as local fire departments and neighboring facilities," said Jeff Wilkes, refinery general manager. "The joint training we've done together has paid off."

Unocal immediately initiated an investigation into the cause of the fire and will fully cooperate with all appropriate agencies.

Updated: May 1996