Initial Findings of Benicia Port Fire Investigation Point Toward Accidental Causes

A partial view of damage caused by a four-alarm Port of Benicia fire. Photo courtesy of the City of Benicia.

A fire at the Port of Benicia that damaged part of the port pier during the weekend of April 9 may have started “on or near the lower portion of the coke conveyor belt system near the base of the silos,” according to initial findings announced by Benicia Fire Chief Josh Chadwick on April 12.

The fire, a four-alarm blaze, started at the base of the petroleum coke silo midday on a Saturday, then apparently spread under the pier. Fire crews fought the blaze through the night before it was fully extinguished Sunday afternoon.

“The fire appears to be unintentional in nature,” Chadwick said, adding that the investigation remains open and ongoing. “Electrical and mechanical causes have not yet been ruled out.”

Meanwhile, the City of Benicia said in a statement that it plans to meet bi-weekly with Benicia refinery operator Valero and terminal operator Amports to discuss port damage, operational ability and what steps need to be taken to start cleaning up and rebuilding the damaged part of the pier.

The U.S. Coast Guard and the California State Lands Commission have received engineering reports from Valero and Amports, with Valero stating that it plans to again use the eastern terminal for delivering crude oil, while Amports plans to use the western terminal to accept vehicle imports.

Both can resume operations once the Coast Guard approves the reports. The petroleum coke terminal, however, was expected to remain closed indefinitely.