Oct. 19–Evacuation orders were lifted Thursday afternoon for 4,000 Bay Point residents who were forced out of their homes the prior night after an underground vault caught fire, threatening a gas pipeline.
Contra Costa County firefighters extinguished a grass fire in the area of Bailey Road around 6 p.m. Wednesday, but they returned to the scene an hour later after hearing reports of a fire in a nearby Chevron vault, where workers access gas pipeline valves.
Officials sent a drone over the facility Wednesday night and found that a concrete vault had reached 430 degrees.
“We realized very quickly there was a high probability of danger, so a decision was made to escalate the incident, which included setting an evacuation zone of a half mile,” said Terence Carey, an assistant fire chief for the Contra Costa County Fire Protection District.
As of Thursday morning, the vault had cooled to 100 degrees, but crews spent a total of 15 hours identifying the issue and flowing natural gas out of the pipeline before injecting nitrogen to render the line safe.
“We are very happy this went according to plan,” Carey said.
Thanks to Pittsburg PD and their drone program for helping us keep infrared eyes on the Bay Point gas pipeline incident overnight. The colorful image has allowed us to track temperatures in the vault throughout the incident. #poinsettiaic pic.twitter.com/8AUwSYdHHd
— Confire PIO (@ContraCostaFire) October 18, 2018
Cell phone robocalls went out Wednesday night to residents of 1,400 homes in the evacuation zone near Bailey Road, officials said, but not everyone got the message.
Tony Raymond, 53, worked 12 hours Wednesday at a nearby refinery before taking his wife out to dinner to celebrate her 45th birthday. At 9:30 p.m., the couple got into bed with their two dogs, Camilla and Yoko, and fell “dead asleep.”
Two hours later, Raymond woke to seven missed calls from his son, who relayed the evacuation orders. Neighbors had already left the area, and the couple had slept through law enforcement knocking on their door.
Raymond walked out his front door around 11:30 p.m. and was met by police officers, who asked him what he was still doing home.
“I have to get the pets,” Raymond recalled saying. “I didn’t have time to put my socks on.”
He put the dogs in his pickup truck, before going to the family’s Toyota with their cat, Princess, and the cage that held their three cockatiels: Summer, Terry and Candy.
“Those are our babies right there,” Raymond said, pointing at the chirping birds. “We had to get them all. It was a nightmare. It was crazy. I hope we don’t have to do that again.”
Raymond and his wife, Wendy, spent the night in the Bay Point BART parking lot, but neither of them slept.
Early Thursday, officials started moving Bay Point BART Station evacuees to the parking lot of Los Medanos College. Wendy Raymond sat in the back of the family’s pickup truck, her hands resting on the cages as she shushed the birds.
“I still can’t believe this is happening,” she said. “I was so confused, nauseous at the same time.”
SPREAD THE WORD — Red Cross volunteers have opened a second shelter at Los Medanos College (2700 E. Leland Rd., Pittsburg) for residents evacuated from Bay Point due to wildfire threatening a gas pipeline. #poinsettiaic
— Red Cross Bay Area (@RedCrossBayArea) October 18, 2018
A few hundred evacuees also sheltered Wednesday night at the Calvary Temple Church in Concord. Pastor Jason Morgan was leaving a board meeting when he saw a police officer racing through the church parking lot.
The officer told him 1,500 homes were being evacuated and nearly 4,000 people would be displaced, and he asked if residents could use the church’s parking lot.
“I said 100-percent yes,” Morgan said.
The pastor also unlocked the church’s lobby doors so people could use the bathroom and get water and coffee.
Officials said that three buses were dispatched to get people out of the evacuation zone.
“We recognize we probably have many individuals who don’t have the transportation,” said Lt. Paul O’Mary, a member of the county Sheriff’s Office. “We went down literally every street.”
Busloads of people arrived at the church, where volunteers prepared cots and couches, brought in groceries and ordered hundreds of Grand Slam breakfasts from a nearby Denny’s.
“The whole building was just lined with people,” Morgan said. “The lobby was full. People were standing in the cold. It was very somber. Some people were in tears when they first started arriving. A lot of people were scared, a lot of people were confused — they hadn’t grabbed anything.”
Venting of the Bay Point gas line is resulting in a loud, shrieking noise that has been described as a jet-engine-like sound emanating from the Chevron Pipeline Facility on Buchanan Road in Antioch. This is a normal part of the risk-mitigation process. Please do not call 911.
— Confire PIO (@ContraCostaFire) October 18, 2018
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