Massive fire closes Port of Benicia indefinitely

The investigation and cleanup from Saturday's massive blaze at the Port of Benicia was in high gear on Monday, in hopes of getting the critical port back in operation.

It could also bring even more pain at the gas pump. That's because the Port of Benicia is a busy port. It imports crude oil for Valero, automobiles for the nation, and exports petroleum fuels overseas. That was up until Saturday.

In the wake of the intense fire at the port's main dock, it remains closed indefinitely pending structural evaluations as well as a determination of the fire's origin and cause.

Beyond the dock itself, many subsystems and electrical lines were damaged or destroyed, further hampering dock and port operations.

"We're working really hard to do our due diligence to make sure that port is safe and when it is determined safe by engineers then begin operations as soon as possible," said Benicia Deputy City Manager Mario Giuliani.

"We observed quite a bit of debris and what we believe to be fossil fuel products exiting the site into the Carquinez Strait," said Cole Burchiel, Field Investigator for the environmental watchdog Baykeeper.

That fossil fuel product, called petroleum coke, is exported overseas.

"Petroleum coke which is a dirty petroleum byproduct," said Burchiel.

"The center of that, where the petroleum coke is transported into ships, that was the area of the port that was most damaged," said Guiliani.

Giuliani said the Department of Fish and Wildlife reported that "they have not identified any harm to fish or habitats and that's very good news."