Illegal fireworks spark dozens of spot fires throughout Contra Costa County

Bay Area

CONTRA COSTA COUNTY, Calif. (KRON) — Illegal fireworks lit up the sky across the Bay Area Saturday night and caused dozens of fires.

In Contra Costa County, firefighters put out more than 67 fires — including one that threatened more than 20 homes in Pittsburg.

“Last night was, in my experience of 15 years, by far the most extreme use of illegal fireworks in our jurisdiction. It was just incredible.”

On the 4th of July, illegal fireworks in Contra Costa County sparked more fires in five hours than what firefighters typically see throughout an entire summer month.

Contra Costa Fire Captain George Laing says the department put out 67 fires from 7 p.m. to midnight, including a large one near Oak Hills and Southwood Drives in Pittsburg. 

“Extremely dangerous because we were so busy we didn’t have the number of units we would normally send to that kind of fire,” Laing said.

At one point, the fire threatened 20 homes nearby but firefighters managed to save and protect all 20.

Meanwhile, two homes on Crestpark Circle in Antioch were burning from another fire, but were later saved by fire crews.

Captain Laing says all of the illegal firework activity put a strain on their resources Saturday night.

“We were down to sending a single engine to most calls, where we would normally have a full alarm assignment which would be depending on the alarm, four engines and a truck and a battalion chief,” Laing said. “We’d have just one unit respond to each fire occurring. That’s how drawn down we were.”

While no homes were lost, there were several injuries.

“I know of at least three injuries, including to a mother and daughter who were hit by a firework and another person lost a hand from a fireworks, and that’s just the initial round. we haven’t fully tallied all the injuries,” Laing said.

Laing says the use of illegal fireworks started earlier this year, at the beginning of June.

While it’s not clear if the fireworks will continue after the holiday, Laing warns neighbors to be prepared.

“Difficult and frustrating as a fire agency to put the word out there,” he said. “We want people to do their vegetation management, get their weeds done and defensible space completed before the 4th of July. It’s simply because of the number of fires that occur on the 4th due to illegal fireworks.”

Of the 67 fires Saturday night, fireworks caused at least 16 of the them, while the rest are still being investigated.

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