Vancouver gas prices up sharply in week since refinery fire

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As expected, local gas prices are on a steep climb right in the middle of the summer vacation season.

The AAA auto club reported Monday that the average price of a gallon of gasoline in both Washington and Oregon is $3.87. That's 17 cents higher than the national average. Vancouver's average price is slightly lower, at $3.85 per gallon.

Washington's average price is up 17 cents in a week and 28 cents in a month, while Oregon's price moved up by 20 cents in a week and 33 cents in a month, AAA said.

Prices were even higher in the Seattle area and other communities in western Washington. Seattle-Bellevue-Everett reported a $3.90 per gallon average. Tacoma also reported $3.90, while Olympia's average was $3.89 and Bremerton's was $3.87. Bellingham topped the $4 barrier at $4.01.

East of the Cascades, Yakima's average was $3.78, Tri-Cities' was $3.78, and Spokane reported $3.68 per gallon.

In Oregon, Portland and Salem both reported gas at $3.84 per gallon, with the price at $3.90 in Eugene and $3.95 in Medford-Ashland.

Analysts have warned of rising West Coast gasoline prices in the aftermath of an Aug. 6 fire at a Chevron Corp. refinery in Richmond, Calif. On Monday, Reuters news service reported that the refinery could be closed for at least four to six months.

Citing a report by the industry intelligence group IIR energy, Reuters said investigators have found "extensive damage" in the cooling towers, pipe racks and heater tower,

Neither Chevron nor investigators have given any timeline for resuming full operations at the 245,000-barrel-per-day plant, Reuters said. A Chevron spokesman on Monday reiterated to the news service that the No. 4 crude oil unit — the only one at the plant — was still shut down while other parts of the plant were operating.