Hundreds protest outside Chevron on the 10th anniversary of a fire that sent thousands to the hospital

More than a hundred activists protested outside of Chevron's Richmond refinery today to recognize the ten-year anniversary of one of the worst refinery accidents in decades in the Bay Area.

On August 6th, 2012 a huge, black plume of smoke hanging over Richmond could be seen for miles.

Thousands of people got sick and Chevron ended up paying millions in a settlement.

Protestors gathered at the refinery Saturday to reflect on that event, and push for a change away from fossil fuels.  One of their many demands is for the California Air Resources Board to put together a plan to phase out oil refineries in the state by 2045.

More than a hundred protestors briefly blocked traffic on Castro Street outside the Richmond Refinery curing the protest, then made way for traffic to flow through.

"I want to apologize to the community for the fire and the smoke this evening at our Richmond refinery," said a Chevron spokesperson at the time.

Protestor and climate activist Katherine Lee of Richmond was just 14-years-old when it happened.

"I remember sitting on the coach and the news was turned on, and we saw the big headlines explosion at the Chevron Refinery.  I remember seeing the big cloud of smoke," said Lee, with the Asian Pacific Environmental Network.

Some protesters said that event is partially responsible for their activism to push for alternatives to fossil fuels. Richmond Resident Najari Smith founded a non-profit to get more people on bikes and said the issue is both environmental and social.

"There’s a correlation between refineries and how close they’re being built in black and brown communities.  They wouldn’t allow this type of air pollution in more affluent areas," said Smith of

The fire, which happened within a stone's throw of the protest, was said to be under control in roughly four hours, but forced a stay-at-home order until late that night.

Upwards of 15,000 people reportedly sought medical treatment in the immediate aftermath.

Though investigators said the fire was likely caused by a leak in a corroded pipe Chevron neglected to replace, the company did not accept blame.

"And that’s the problem, the fact that Chevron refused to take responsibility for the damage they inflicted on our community (it) alerted us to the need for collaboration in our work to hold Chevron accountable," said Richmond Council member Eduardo Martinez.

In 2018, the Richmond City Council settled a lawsuit with Chevron for $5 million, but the company did not admit fault and the deal did not require any reforms at the refinery.