SAN FRANCISCO — Mistakes were made by air quality officials in notifying the public about potentially dangerous pollution created by a huge fire at a Chevron Corp. refinery last month, regulators said Monday.

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District held a public meeting in San Francisco to discuss its response and the myriad investigations into the Aug. 6 fire that started after a leak in an old pipe at the Richmond facility.

Though Chevron and Contra Costa County also did air monitoring during the fire, the district was responsible for testing samples and determining if federal and state pollution standards were violated. If so, it was responsible for notifying county officials, who alert the public.

The district initially said none of the monitors measured levels exceeding legal standards, and later recanted that assertion.

More than 15,000 people sought medical attention for breathing complaints and eye irritation, though officials said only three required hospitalization.

Regulators also told those who attended the meeting that they are working to improve pollution monitoring during emergencies. District executive officer Jack Broadbent said the initial, incorrect assertion that all air quality samples taken near the refinery fire were safe "clearly fell short."

"The public was suffering from this event," he said.

The company has not set a timetable for when the crude unit that was destroyed by the fire will restart operations. The site is currently the focus of investigations by state and federal agencies, so access is strictly controlled.

Gasoline prices in California rose sharply in the days after the unit was taken offline. Some analysts said the increase was due in part to the supply disruption caused at the state's third largest refinery.

The average price for a gallon of regular gasoline in California on Aug. 7 was $3.86. On Monday, it was $4.15.

The district is looking at deploying more air monitors near the refinery, and studying new, mobile air-monitoring stations that can be set up quickly during an emergency.

Nigel Hearne, general manager of the refinery, said the refinery as a whole is still producing fuels, though at a reduced rate because of the loss of the crude unit destroyed by the fire.

"Safety is our first business, and any comment to the contrary is incorrect," Hearne said.

Chevron had been working with the city of Richmond prior to the fire to build three, community air monitoring stations that will improve the ability of residents to know when air quality becomes dangerous, Hearne said.

Once the new stations are up and running, Hearne said, a website will allow residents to find real-time pollution data.

The refinery fire has also prompted Contra Costa County to look for a new contractor to run its emergency warning phone system.

It took more than three hours for the phone system to call 18,000 people on the night of the fire, said Randy Sawyer, the county's chief environmental health and hazardous materials officer.

"That should be shorter," he said.

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  • Chevron refinery over Point Richmond.

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  • Smoke obscuring the sun

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/VOOOLN"><img style="float:left;padding-right:6px !important;" src="http://images.huffingtonpost.com/twitter_profile_img/3704700.png" /></a><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/VOOOLN">VOOOLN</a>:<br />Taken at 7pm in Richmond, two miles from the Chevron refinery.

  • Chevron refinery from Point Richmond.

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  • Chevron refinery from Point Richmond living room.

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  • Chevron refinery explosion captured as it happened

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/DrewDell"><img style="float:left;padding-right:6px !important;" src="http://i.huffpost.com/profiles/460318-tiny.png?20091110142242" /></a><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/DrewDell">DrewDell</a>:<br />Photo: Drew Dellinger

  • Chevron refinery explosion captured as it happened

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/DrewDell"><img style="float:left;padding-right:6px !important;" src="http://i.huffpost.com/profiles/460318-tiny.png?20091110142242" /></a><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/DrewDell">DrewDell</a>:<br />Photo: Drew Dellinger

  • Chevron Oil REfinery FIre

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/jrdenkin"><img style="float:left;padding-right:6px !important;" src="http://images.huffingtonpost.com/aol_profile_img/3705541.png" /></a><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/jrdenkin">jrdenkin</a>:<br />

  • Chevron explodes

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/MichaelJ2006"><img style="float:left;padding-right:6px !important;" src="http://s.huffpost.com/images/profile/user_placeholder.gif" /></a><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/MichaelJ2006">MichaelJ2006</a>:<br />Looking west from Richmond CA.

  • Chevron refinery fire 1

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/cwishard"><img style="float:left;padding-right:6px !important;" src="http://s.huffpost.com/images/profile/user_placeholder.gif" /></a><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/cwishard">cwishard</a>:<br />Taken from the richmond bridge at 6:35 pm.

  • First plume of smoke.

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/cwishard"><img style="float:left;padding-right:6px !important;" src="http://s.huffpost.com/images/profile/user_placeholder.gif" /></a><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/cwishard">cwishard</a>:<br />First sign of trouble on the richmond bridge, 6:35 pm

  • plume

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/merigorownd"><img style="float:left;padding-right:6px !important;" src="http://s.huffpost.com/images/profile/user_placeholder.gif" /></a><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/merigorownd">merigorownd</a>:<br />Plume of smoke over my house from the Chevron Refinery fire.

  • Chevron Refinery Fire

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/merigorownd"><img style="float:left;padding-right:6px !important;" src="http://s.huffpost.com/images/profile/user_placeholder.gif" /></a><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/merigorownd">merigorownd</a>:<br />Chevron Refinery Fire from a tower behind the plant

  • Chevron Refinery Fire

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/merigorownd"><img style="float:left;padding-right:6px !important;" src="http://s.huffpost.com/images/profile/user_placeholder.gif" /></a><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/merigorownd">merigorownd</a>:<br />Chevron Refinery Fire from a tower behind the plant. (Photo: Mimi Vitetta)

  • Chevron Refinery Fire

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/merigorownd"><img style="float:left;padding-right:6px !important;" src="http://s.huffpost.com/images/profile/user_placeholder.gif" /></a><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/merigorownd">merigorownd</a>:<br />A view inside the neighborhood, the Iron Triangle. (Photo: Mimi Vitetta)

  • From Kensington

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/rododu"><img style="float:left;padding-right:6px !important;" src="http://graph.facebook.com/1148340129/picture?type=square" /></a><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/rododu">rododu</a>:<br />

  • Richmond Chevron fire from SF/Oakland ferry

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/hailfromsf"><img style="float:left;padding-right:6px !important;" src="http://s.huffpost.com/images/profile/user_placeholder.gif" /></a><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/hailfromsf">hailfromsf</a>:<br />Photo of Richmond Chevron refinery fire, taken minutes after black cloud formed, from the SF/Oakland ferry.

  • Chevron Oil Fire as seen from Mill Valley in Marin County

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/prthatrocks"><img style="float:left;padding-right:6px !important;" src="http://graph.facebook.com/1074196206/picture?type=square" /></a><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/prthatrocks">prthatrocks</a>:<br />Chevron Oil Fire as seen from Mill Valley in Marin County. Krista busts into the apartment and says, "What is going on with all that smoke?" As seen from our houseboat from the Commodore Marina next to the Seaplane Adventures dock in Mill Valley. The smoke is rising over Tiburon in the distance.

  • Chevron refinery fire.

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/gjmurphy"><img style="float:left;padding-right:6px !important;" src="http://s.huffpost.com/images/profile/user_placeholder.gif" /></a><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/gjmurphy">gjmurphy</a>:<br />Taken in Point Richmond, 8/6/12 at 7pm