Illegal Fireworks Spark Multiple Fires in San Francisco

San Francisco, California, was plagued by grass fires on Saturday night — many of them caused by illegal fireworks. The Fourth of July celebrations were limited this weekend due to the coronavirus pandemic, but many people chose to put on their own light shows. According to a report by The San Francisco Chronicle, the results were destructive, in many cases.

The Bay Area had at least 100 fires between the hours of 3 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. PT on Saturday. This rash of incidents included some severe blazes, such as the fire in McLaren Park, which torched about 4 acres of land and vegetation. Fire departments tried to keep up with public advisories on social media as usual, while begging people to stop setting off fireworks in real-time. At one point, the San Francisco Fire Department tweeted about 15 separate fires within a single hour.

Other dangerous fires included on at 50 Cargo Way in Hunters Point, and another east of Morgan Hill, which covered about 100 acres of vegetation at its worst. Firefighters worked on that one into the early hours of Sunday morning and were forced to evacuate parts of the community around Anderson Lake.

Contra Costa County officials said that they responded to about 50 fires in the hour between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. PT alone. This outbreak spread the department so thin that they were sending just one truck for each call by 10 p.m. A spokesman for that department, Steve Hill, marveled at the number of fires, even by Fourth of July standards.

"It's unbelievable, they're coming so fast," he said. Hill said that he could hear fireworks exploding nearby even as he responded to fires that they had started. "If it weren't for the fact that we'd almost doubled our resources, we'd be out at this point."

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On Sunday morning, the Bay Area National Weather Service posted a warning that smoke was in the air all over the San Francisco area, due mostly to fireworks and the fires they had started. Meanwhile, many calls came in about firework-related injuries, including one about a child who was hit in the eye.

Authorities were worried about the amateur fireworks extravaganza well ahead of time, as multiple reports in the last week show. Some retailers reported considerable surges in fireworks sales. However, many noted that it did not make up for their losses as cities and counties canceled their usual festivities due to the coronavirus pandemic. Firefighters are now asking that people with leftover fireworks take a break from setting them off.