An automated phone message sent out by Contra Costa Health Services stated that there has been an emergency at the refinery.
"Go inside. Close all windows and doors," the message stated.
It advised residents to turn off heaters, air conditioners and fans, and to cover cracks around doors with tape or damp towels.
Residents are being urged to stay off the phone to keep the line free for further alerts.
The fire was reported around 6:40 p.m., said Randy Sawyer, the chief environmental and hazardous materials officer for Contra Costa Health Services.
The Richmond BART station has been closed because of the emergency, a BART employee said.