The deafening sounds of illegal fireworks going off rang across the Bay Area Saturday night. Included in that soundtrack of thunderous claps were fire truck sirens resounding left and right as they drove to battle blazes — with one still-growing South Bay fire now 343 acres large.
Aside from tepid firework shows in Gilroy, there were no official pyrotechnic displays to commemorate this year's July 4th holiday in the Bay Area — but that didn’t stop locals from unlawfully setting them off, with some lighting fuses well past midnight in the Mission District and near East Oakland. And as the adage goes: when you mess with fire, someone's going to get burned. Though, in this instance, it was things (backyards, rooftops, hillsides) that charred.
According to reports published by the Chronicle, over 100 fires believed to be linked to firework activity were responded to by the San Francisco Fire Department (SFFD) between 3 p.m. and 11 p.m. last night; similarly, Contra Costa County firefighters battled some 50 blazes — between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. alone.
“It’s unbelievable, they’re coming so fast,” said Steve Hill, spokesman for the Contra Costa Fire Protection District, to the newspaper. Later, Hill noted that another eighteen fires were burning by 11 p.m. last night.
Structures threatened by fire in Pittsburg tonight. ConFire with assistance from numerous partnering fire agencies plus Pittsburgh PD saved over 20 homes. Great job! pic.twitter.com/DAlUt1bvVz— Con Fire PIO (@ContraCostaFire) July 5, 2020
At one point, SFFD was responding to fifteen fires per hour, which included the four-acre blaze at Mclaren Park that erupted around dusk. A much larger 100-acre (now 200-acre) vegetation fire began burning in Morgan Hill sometime after; over 300 firefighters are currently battling the "Park Fire," as Cal Fire dubbs it, and have contained 20 percent of that burning; evacuation orders have been given to residents near Anderson Lake where the fire is raging.
1/3 #YOURSFFD responded to 110 fires between the hours of 3 PM 7-4-20 and 3 AM 07-05-20. 2 of those were burnt food, the rest caused by fireworks. Most of these were on the Southside of #SF— SAN FRANCISCO FIRE DEPARTMENT MEDIA (@SFFDPIO) July 5, 2020
Two pediatric suffered burns from fireworks, among other reported incidents. ---- pic.twitter.com/0ixwQtlkBB
Aside from the fires, Hill noted that Contra Costa firefighters also answered to many firework-related injuries last night, including a child who was apparently hit in the eye; a man in Menlo Park was taken to a local hospital for burns and lacerations after a glass bottle containing explosives presumably detonated near him. "Exploding trees," too, were reported in the East Bay as fireworks powdered embers on branches as they ascended into the atmosphere. Concord saw at least two vehicle fires and two house fires, each suspected as a result of illegal firework activity.
Contra Costa's fire department, like others in the Bay Area, had prior in the week prepared for the expected surge in illegal firework use: “If it weren’t for the fact that we’d almost doubled our resources, we’d be out at this point,” Hill adds.
Richmond Police last night went as far as to dedicate an entire team of officers to confiscate fireworks, with Lieutenant Matthew Stonebreaker saying to Mercury News “a lot of fireworks [have been collected] so far" at 10:30 p.m. Saturday.
While most of Saturday’s smaller brush and residential fires were quickly extinguished, the growing Park Fire in Morgan Hill has already caused ten homes to evacuate, per ABC7, and continues burning with little containment; no injuries or structures from that fire have so far been reported and Cal Fire Deputy Chief Mike Marcucci says it's still "too early" to tell how the fire began.
We'll be updating this story with more news on the Park Fire as it continues to burn through Morgan Hill.
***Update*** 07/05, 6:35 p.m.
The Park Fire is now holding at 50 percent contained — but a second South Bay fire has taken shape. Per KPIX, the newer "Crews Fire" in rural Santa Clara County has grown to 600 acres, prompting additional evacuations.
***Update*** 07/05, 12:10 p.m.
The Chronicle now reports the fire has grown to 343 acres.
Image: Twitter via @mattchinni