Port of Benicia Devastated by 4 Alarm Fire

Damage caused by a fire at the Port of Benicia during the weekend of April 9-10. Photo courtesy City of Benicia.

The Port of Benicia, a small, privately operated port in the San Francisco Bay area, was devastated by a four-alarm fire this past weekend.

The port, which is operated by Amports, a Maryland-based auto processing company, saw the blaze erupt in the early afternoon of Saturday, April 9, according to media reports, in the 1000 block of Bayshore Boulevard, next to the Amports port terminal. Benicia Fire Chief Josh Chadwick, according to local reports, said that when fire crews arrived, the blaze was burning upward from a conveyer belt toward a docked tanker ship.

The fire initially began  at the base of the silos and the surrounding vegetation and on the conveyor were extinguished quickly, Chadwick explained. However, a portion of the fire continued on the underside of the pier structure, which is constructed of large creosote-coated timber covered by thick asphalt road surface.

Despite fears that the blaze could burn for days, fire responders managed to extinguish it in about 24 hours, according to Benicia Fire. Currently, crews are investigating the cause and conducting damage assessment, according to Benicia city officials.

“(Benicia refinery operator) Valero and Amports are conducting engineering assessments and creating reports for submittal to the US Coast Guard, California State Lands Commission and the City of Benicia for review and approval,” the City of Benicia said in an April 11 statement.

“Once the reports are approved, operations can begin again for vehicle and crude (oil) unloading. The terminal for petcoke (petroleum coke) is out of commission,” the statement continued. “Please note that there are multiple terminals on the dock and it was the terminal for petcoke that was damaged during the fire.”

Dredging and marine construction company the Dutra Group is on site collecting debris and has a 1,300-foot boom in the water to contain rubble. However, California Fish & Wildlife has not identified any harm to fish or habitat, according to the City of Benicia.

The city has said that it plans to provide an update when its receives confirmation that the dock and terminals that receive crude oil and vehicles have been cleared to resume operations.

By Mark Edward Nero