San Francisco Chronicle
Jul. 6–Bay Area firefighters responded to hundreds of fires on July Fourth, many sparked by illegal fireworks, as the region faces a worsening drought and wildfire season.
The counties of Alameda, Contra Costa, San Francisco and the city of Oakland alone reported at least 216 fires from Sunday morning through Monday morning. A couple municipalities said the number of fires were down from last Independence Day.
Contra Costa’s fire department responded to 48 grass and five structure fires, including a roof fire in Antioch and one in a Pittsburg backyard caused by the careless use of illegal fireworks. The number of wildland fires dropped 20% from last year and the number of structure fires 40%.
Our steadfast street cleaning crews remained busy overnight and throughout the day picking up the left-behind debris from illegal fireworks. Check out the before and after of this big mess at Third St. and Burke Ave. pic.twitter.com/8bPhFBKAmH— SF Public Works (@sfpublicworks) July 6, 2021
In San Francisco, the number of fires also decreased compared to last year, although firework use was up, fire department spokesman Jonathan Baxter said. The department responded to 50 fires from 3 p.m. Sunday to 7 a.m. Monday that were confirmed or suspected to be firework related, out of 428 total fire and emergency medical service calls.
“This year the fireworks were more concentrated,” Baxter said in a message. “I think the weather and the wet air kept the fires from starting and/or growing.”
Across the Bay, Alameda County Fire Department tackled 52 fires from 8 a.m. Sunday to 8 a.m. Monday. A majority were outside vehicle fires. They also responded to 96 medical calls and 30 calls for car crashes and other emergencies.
In Oakland, firefighters also had a busy weekend, with 61 fire-related calls Sunday and three structure fires early Monday morning. Deputy Chief Nick Luby told The Chronicle that “there is a high probability” two of the three fires were caused by fireworks.
In San Jose, the fire department responded to 20 fireworks-related incidents. They issued 10 citations and seized approximately 550 pounds of fireworks.
“The fireworks are completely out of control,” Assemblymember Ash Kalra (D-San Jose) wrote on Twitter. “There’s no sympathy for veterans or others with acute sensitivity to sounds of explosions. And, the pets & wildlife. This is sheer torture for the animals. I’ve never heard it this bad before and that says a lot being in San José.”
There is evidence it might not have been as bad as 2020: There were only a quarter the number of online reports about fireworks filed from June 15 to July 5 as compared to the same time frame last year.
In Santa Rosa, police and the fire department logged 566 fireworks complaints in a 36-hour period from Saturday to Monday, with more than 400 alone between 6 p.m. Sunday and 2:30 a.m. Monday. Just after midnight, police responded to a gang shooting that killed one resident and injured three more, including two children, at an illegal fireworks gathering.
Police said in a statement they had to prioritize responding to an additional 300-plus calls for violent crimes over fireworks complaints.
Fireworks-related blazes hit a region under drought and already suffering from a wildfire season that roared to an early start. Firefighters are currently working to contain three large blazes in northern California.
San Francisco Chronicle staff writers Ricardo Cano and Matthias Gafni contributed to this report.
Mallory Moench is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter:@mallorymoench
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