Fourth of July: Worst night ever for illegal fireworks, says Fresno Fire Department, US
Fire fighters scrambled to douse grass and structure fires sparked by illegal Fourth of July fireworks across California. The city of San Francisco saw at least 100 fires between 15h00 and 23h30 Saturday. The fire department tweeted about roughly 15 blazes in a single hour. In Los Angeles, fire fighters responded to thousands of emergency calls Saturday and extinguished at least one large blaze that consumed half an apartment complex in Northridge, officials said. One look at the Fresno sky on Saturday night might have told you it was the worst night ever for illegal fireworks. According to the Fresno Fire Department, it answered 135 calls for fires on the Fourth of July. And, at 22h18 overwhelmed crews stopped responding to medical emergency requests, unless it was for cardiac arrest, for nearly three hours. The department responded to 78 fires on the Fourth of July last year. “There were three-and-half hours of non-stop aerial fireworks, which are illegal, over Fresno on Saturday night,” said Fresno Fire Department Public Information Officer Shane Brown on Monday. “The fire fighters I talked to said they had never seen anything like it. Fireworks were going off in every part of the city.” Resources were spread so thin that the city's fire department temporarily stopped responding to medical aid emergencies except for cardiac arrest.
Fresno City Councilman Luis Chavez tweeted “I’ve never seen it this bad! Police and fire departments are swamped and can’t respond to real emergencies.” Altogether, Fresno fire crews responded to a total of 211 calls Saturday. At 3am Sunday, Brown said, the department was still fighting 14 fires. The department fielded 184 calls for service on Sunday as well. That brought the 48-hour total to 395; a 60 percent increase over 4 and 5 July, Brown said.
Miraculously, perhaps, there were no reports of injuries to residents or fire fighters. Dispatchers for the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office answered more than 1 000 calls on Saturday, sheriff’s spokesman Tony Botti said Monday. Six hundred calls came through the 911 emergency line and 428 were for non-emergencies.
However, last year’s Fourth of July calls totalled 1 224, Botti said, although only 393 of those came in on the 911 line. “We filtered calls that would likely meet the criteria for fireworks from this past Saturday,” Botti said. “Keywords included: Fireworks, fire and public hazard. There were a total of 234.
One thing to note is that if, for example, five people called in a report for fireworks in one particular area, that gets merged into one call, so that is why the 234 number may seem lower than you would expect.” Sgt Jeff LaBlue, spokesman for the Fresno Police Department, said Monday that the department received about 4 000 calls for service on 4 July, “which is normal for a Saturday night in the summer.”
But, with illegal fireworks exploding all over the city, the department deactivated its ShotSpotter technology. That system helps officers quickly detect and respond to gunshots.
Well before the holiday, states all over the nation reported that people were setting off fireworks in large numbers.
Julie L Heckman, executive director of the American Pyrotechnics Association, reported a 200 percent increase in fireworks sales over last year. Two popular explanations for the surge: the cancellation of public displays because of the COVID-19 pandemic and people looking to blow off steam while being under lockdown orders.