OAKLAND -- Firefighters used oil containment booms to soak up diesel fuel that came from a storm drain and pushed an oily sheen over several acres of Lake Merritt following Tuesday's unexpected rain, an Oakland Fire Department battalion chief said.

Battalion Chief Darin White said the fuel ran into the lake from a storm drain at Harrison and Grand streets at the northwest part of the lake, near the Cathedral of Christ the Light Church.

The origin of the fuel was not immediately known but Oakland firefighters, the city public works department, and the Department of Fish and Game worked to determine its source.

Fuel was originally covering at least 4 acres of the lake, but possibly up to 5 acres, White said.

Cleanup started about 3 p.m., and it was expected to take several hours, possibly longer, to complete the job.

White said crews from the department's marine unit could see the fuel sheen from several hundred yards away when they arrived on the scene about 1:45 p.m. No one was injured.

Crews spread booms from the Harrison Street side of the lake to Fairyland to mop up the fuel, White said.

White said the rain water likely pushed the fuel into the lake, which covers 155 acres in the heart of Oakland.

"This wouldn't happen on a dry day,'' White said.

No wildlife was injured by the toxic spill.

"Most of the birds are on the shore. I don't see any fowl on the water,'' White said.


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Though rain in June in Oakland is uncommon, the rainy season is considered the "dirty season" at the lake, according to the Lake Merritt Institute.

November to March is usually when rainwater moves garbage from the streets into storm drains and into the fresh and saltwater lake, according to the Lake Merritt Institute.

The institute is a 15-year-old nonprofit corporation that works to keep the lake clean year-round, removing 1,000 to 6,000 pounds of trash from the water each month under a contract with the city of Oakland.