Hot weather, fire danger don't stop July 4th events

July 4, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
The hot temperatures and dry weather are concerning Bay Area firefighters as people get ready to celebrate the Fourth of July.

Anyone can walk up and buy safe and sane fireworks at these stands in Newark. But you could be hit with a fine up to $50,000 just for possessing them a few blocks away in Fremont. The fire danger is high, and enforcement may be the toughest we've seen in years.

The nonprofits that sell fireworks in Newark say they couldn't survive without this income. And their customers know what they want.

"It's the big stuff," said Angie Traynor with Newark American Little League. "They want anything that goes big and boom. And the higher the better."

But tinder dry grass is all over, sparking fear of fireworks-related fires.

"We hope that the parents would, you know, watch over them while they're using them," said Debbie Caravalho with Viola Blythe Community Services. "But of course we don't know what goes on after they leave here."

Vendors in Newark are required to pass out safety flyers, which one customer took a moment to review as he held onto a formidable fireworks device.

"They're trying to let us know how to be safe, but it doesn't at all seem that they're trying to prohibit our fun, so just be smart, do it in the right area, and you should be good to go," Fremont resident Andy Tran said.

However, the week-long heat wave has fire agencies on edge.

"Temperature goes up, the relative humidity drops, and the combustibility of fuels, and that's everything from grasses, poorly maintained ornamental vegetation around homes, actually homes themselves with wood shake roofs, they become more susceptible to ignition," said Alameda County Fire Division Chief Kevin Johnston.

Even though anyone can buy safe and sane fireworks where they're allowed, setting them off may be illegal where you live. Fremont will be cracking down.

"We will issue a citation for the safe and sane fireworks if persons are unwilling to allow us to confiscate them voluntarily," Fremont Deputy Fire Marshal Amiel Thurston said.

Fireworks customers say that with the high fire risk, this Fourth of July could be a teaching opportunity for their kids.

"Safety first and fun second," Livermore resident Frankie Markovich said. "You teach 'em how to do it right, and then they can grow up doing this stuff and have fun with it. If they learn on their own and they don't learn how to do it right, then it ruins it for everyone else."

BART strike affects Bay Area fireworks events

Since BART trains are not running, that meant a lot of people from the East Bay who would have gone to San Francisco for the big fireworks show may be staying closer to home instead. As a result, crews at the Berkeley Marina are planning for a bigger show than usual this year.

The people we spoke with Thursday said they had no desire to deal with the traffic situation. And with BART being on strike, there was no way to get to San Francisco. So the prime spots along Seawall Drive filled up a lot faster than normal.

Pyrotechnic operator Coral Westergrand with J&M Displays is moving, partly because BART isn't.

"We knew BART was going to be out of service today so we spent a little extra time preparing," Westergrand said.

J&M Designs is behind this year's fireworks show at the Berkeley Marina and this year things are different. The BART strike forced them to order more fireworks. There will be more than 1,200 explosions of light and sound because they're expecting a larger crowd than in year's past.

"So we got new racks, as you can see they're nice and shiny, and we got new fireworks," Westergrand said.

The crew even got to the marina early to start their setup so they wouldn't have to deal with traffic getting here. And they weren't the only ones getting an early start, spectators had the same idea.

"You get here early so you can get a spot like this," Oakland resident Mickel Fernandez said. "Fireworks are going off right there tonight, we'll be right here."

For Christina Stokes, the BART strike had a different effect. Making the trip with three little ones all the way to San Francisco without the convenience of BART, wasn't an option.

"Have you ever tried to travel with this many children over the bridge and get stuck in traffic?" she asked.

Little Jazmine won't be dealing with traffic either. Thursday night's show will be her first and it will happen in Berkeley, because the Ponce-Munoz family has a tradition of spending their Fourth of July under this tree.

"Going out to the city just makes everything so difficult," one resident said. "To get out there, to get a spot, driving, this just makes it easier."

Parking at the Berkeley Marina filled up very quickly Thursday night. Overflow parking is being offered at Golden Gate Fields for $15, where a shuttle is taking attendees to the marina.

July 4th festivities carry on despite rainy weather

Booming bagpipes began Danville's Salute to the 4th of July. This parade is as red, white, and blue as they come; one of the Bay Area's oldest traditions, starting 150 years ago.

But before the marching band could play one note, a dark cloud formed over the festivities and there was rain. The Morgan family was pretty surprised.

"It's a great, we come here every year, it's a great little small town parade and everybody's really nice and excited to be here," Danville resident Denise Morgan said. "And it's raining, it's keeping us cool, right."

Minutes later, rain clouds parted. Despite the weird downpour, the parade carried on.

"It's wonderful having the overcast sky right now and it's nice, we've done it for years and year," Alamo resident Judy O'Conner said.

In Concord, it was all about pancakes. The July 4th traditional breakfast was sponsored by the Rotary Club. This event is so popular they can barely flip enough flapjacks to keep up with hungry customers.

"We will go through 800 to 1,000 pancakes in a flash," said Edi Birsan with the Rotary Club of Concord-Diablo. "And then, when the pancakes are done, we have hot dogs, because this is America."


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