Benicia pier fire: Bay Area car dealers fear port closure will add to ongoing supply chain delays

BENICIA, Calif. (KGO) — A major seaport in the East Bay remains closed, after a four-alarm fire severely damaged part of the wharf over the weekend. It happened at the port of Benicia, experts say the closure could have real economic impacts for us.

Engineers were still assessing all the damage at the port of Benicia on Monday, 48 hours after a four-alarm fire tore through wooden beams under the quay, stretching for 200 metres. The massive fire started on Saturday afternoon and was finally brought under control by Sunday morning. The cause of the fire is still under investigation, according to Benicia Fire Chief Josh Chadwick.

The biggest concern is the environment. A boom was placed in the water to catch debris and oil.

“We have been notified by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, they have observed no harm to the fish and their habitat, good news,” Benicia Deputy City Manager Mario Giuliani said.

Environmental watch group, San Francisco Baykeeper is conducting its own investigation.

“But obviously no amount of petroleum product is acceptable to end up in the water,” said Cole Burchiel of Baykeeper.

VIDEO: Benicia Port fire damage could impact Bay Area gas prices, city official says

Port operations have been halted. The facility is used by the Valero Benicia refinery, which converts crude into gasoline, diesel and jet fuel. Energy experts say even a small disruption could have economic impacts at the pump.

“They are producing a lot of gasoline and diesel if they lost the operation of this refinery it would be a big blow to the California market I would expect prices to go up even more just as they were starting to drop,” said Professor Severin Borenstein of the UC Berkeley Haas School of Business.

The port is also a major hub for importing Toyota cars and trucks. Several dealers have told us off-camera that they fear delivery delays will add to supply chain headaches.

A Toyota spokesperson told ABC7 News in a statement:

“We continue to receive regular updates from port officials and are optimistic that we can soon resume loading vehicles at the berth where the fire occurred, or use a different one at the Our teams continue to work day and night to get vehicles to our dealerships across the country and ultimately into the hands of our customers.

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In 2001, ABC7 News covered a fire at the same harbor wharf that firefighters said was likely caused by an illegal campfire ashore. As a result, the port was closed for several months after this fire.

In a statement, a spokesman for the Valero Benicia refinery said:

“Valero continues to work closely with the city of Benicia and Amports to assess port infrastructure and cooperates with local, state and federal agencies.”

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