A massive refinery blaze in California appears to have been caused by firefighters who responded to reports of a leaking pipe. They may have accidentally punctured the damaged pipe, causing a leak that emitted a flammable cloud of gas and sparked a huge blaze. The resulting fire forced thousands of people to seek medical treatment for breathing and other issues. The federal Chemical Safety Board is now investigating the accident, but claims it is likely the fire would have started regardless of the punctured pipe. Reports are not clear on any worker injuries, but the smoke and gas released into the air caused problems for numerous people, potentially resulting in claims for workers’ compensation.

The incident began when a report showed the pipe in question had been weakened by the oil running through it. Firefighters from Chevron responded to the leak report, but may have actually accelerated the leak due to the accidental puncture. An investigation into the accident showed a puncture to the outside of the pipe and a firefighting tool left behind, leading officials to believe it may have been the firefighters who inadvertently caused the issue.

However, the investigation into the leak is still ongoing and the damaged unit is still out of commission. A company spokesman has stated they are cooperating with all of the ongoing investigations and have initiated an internal probe into the blaze. There has been no word on the amount of workers injured or necessary hospitalizations that occurred from the fire, but the overall number, including civilians, is estimated to be in the thousands.

When a California worker is injured or falls ill on the job, they may be eligible to apply for workers’ compensation. A blaze like the one that occurred here could release chemicals into the air, potentially causing current and future health issues. Any worker hospitalized after a refinery accident may be able to rely on their workers’ compensation benefits to assist with medical bills and costs associated with their recovery until the time they are able to come back to work.

Source: MercuryNews.com, “Richmond Chevron refinery firefighters may have damaged pipe, feds say,” Matthias Gafni, Jan. 4, 2013