Update, 11 a.m.: Richmond firefighters have subdued a smoky fire in an auto salvage yard that triggered a shelter-in-place order for local residents and sent an attention-getting column of smoke into East Bay skies.
Crews used fire-suppressing foam to subdue the blaze and prevent it from spreading through a property containing hundreds of junked vehicles. Richmond Deputy Fire Chief Emon Usher said about 40 cars burned in the incident, which was first reported at 7:15 a.m.
The blaze at Richmond Parkway and Gertrude Avenue snarled traffic in the area, but there were no reports of injuries and no 911 calls from the public, Usher said.
Usher added there were also no reports of toxicity in the air near the fire, despite a heavy cloud of black smoke that spread southeastward over Richmond and El Cerrito.
Usher said the Fire Department issued the shelter-in-place order, which covered unincorporated North Richmond and parts of the city proper, "because we don’t want the chemicals or poisonous gas to affect our families and our neighbors. That’s what we’re here to do: It's to save lives, and that is why that’s activated, and we’re monitoring that right now."
Usher told reporters at the scene that barriers had been set up to contain runoff from the fire into nearby waterways. He said the cause of the fire was still under investigation.
Property records show the owner of the property that burned is Chen Long Inc., licensed with the state as a metal recycling business. One of the principals of that firm, Jian Song, is the longtime owner of Deal Auto Wrecking, which operates the yard.
Original post, 8:25 a.m. Friday: A fire in an auto salvage yard in Richmond has sent an ominous column of smoke into East Bay skies during the Friday morning commute and triggered a shelter-in-place order for nearby residents.
The fire is burning at a wrecking yard at the corner of Richmond Parkway and Gertrude Avenue. The fire forced the closure of the southern end of the parkway, an expressway linking Interstate 80 and I-580.
The blaze is just northeast of, but not in, Chevron's Richmond refinery. The fire is just across the highway from a residential neighborhood in North Richmond.
The Richmond Fire Department ordered a shelter in place for the area:
Residents near Gertrude Avenue and Richmond Parkway in Richmond should shelter in place. Please go inside, close all windows and doors, turn off all heaters, air conditioners and fans. If not using the fireplace, close fireplace dampers and vents, and cover cracks around doors and windows with tape or damp towels. Updated emergency information can be found on media news networks and by going to www.cococws.us. Stay off the telephone unless you have a life threatening emergency. Shelter in place until further notice.
Smoke from the blaze was visible over a wide area and was pushed south and east by strong northwesterly winds.