East Bay police, fire agencies fear hills will flame up if illegal fireworks, bonfires continue

Bay Area

ALAMEDA COUNTY, Calif. (KRON) — A crackdown on illegal fireworks and bonfires in the Berkeley and Oakland hills.

Several neighboring law enforcement agencies increasing patrols to deter nighttime gatherings along the popular scenic route — Grizzly Peak Boulevard.

Police and fire agencies fear if they don’t intervene, the hills will flame up.

The thought of a major fire happening in the Berkeley and Oakland hills brings back painful memories.

East Bay police and fire agencies say it wouldn’t take much for a repeat of 1991, when a firestorm killed 25 people and destroyed thousands of homes.

“This is a problem we face on a day to day basis,” Charelton Lightfoot, Oakland Fire Department, said.

“We have serious risk in terms of wildfire and the wildfire season isn’t a couple of months like it used to be,” Oakland councilmember Dan Kalb said. “It’s at least half the year now.”

In response to the at least 10 illegal fires the Oakland Fire Department says it has had to respond to along Grizzly Peak Boulevard since June 1, the Oakland, Berkeley, U.C. Berkeley and Kensington police departments have committed to adding additional patrols in the area indefinitely.

“For us, we’re going to focus on nighttime. We’ll be looking at the evening into the wee hours of the morning,” JOhnna Watson, Oakland PD, said. “That’s typically is reported.”

The allied agencies say the recent fires have been the result of illegal fireworks and bonfires.

Signage has been posted at the nine turnouts, reminding the public the areas are off limits between nine at night and six in the morning.

Violators risk receiving a ticket.

“The reality is — it takes a small spark,” Keith May, Berkeley Fire Department, said.

Which could potentially turn into something much worse.

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