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Bay Area firefighters on alert this 4th of July weekend

Police around the Bay Area worked to prevent illegal fireworks from being set off in dense neighborhoods due to their high danger.
Friday, July 04, 2014
Fireworks may be illegal in San Leandro, but it still sounded like a war zone. Police tried to keep up with extra patrols and roadblocks.

Police turned people away from the San Leandro Marina since it was closed this Fourth of July. Traditionally it is a gathering place to watch fireworks shows across the bay, but it's also where is illegal fireworks of been set off.

In other neighborhoods homemade fireworks shows seem to be everywhere.

San Leandro resident Ramana Vieira and her family say the 4th can be a scary time. She said, "We were having dinner earlier tonight and somebody near our home was setting off some real loud ones. I didn't even know if it was... it is hard to distinguish it between a gunshot and an actual firecracker."

An ABC7 News crew rode along with San Leandro Police Lt. Robt McManus while he was on patrol looking for violators. He said, "A lot of the illegal explosive devices are very powerful and can cause from minor to extremely serious injuries."

Back at the station, Officer Joey Bacon confiscated this arsenal of fireworks from one homeowner, who didn't realize all this was illegal. One wrong move and a celebration could turn tragic.

"These, if they're holding them, and if the wicks burn even faster, this will explode in their hand and they can lose their entire hand," Bacon said.

Bay Area firefighters prepared for 4th of July night

Firefighters in San Jose were busy all day Friday preparing for a busy night ahead. One look at the dry hillsides in the South Bay and it's easy to see why there's so much nail-biting about the potential for fireworks fires. Even with restrictions on sales and use in place, firefighters are not lowering their guard.

Cal Fire's Emergency Operations Center was geared up for a busy night and already received three reports of someone setting off illegal fireworks on Thursday night. "We generally cruise through areas, make ourselves known, establish that presence, and more of an educational piece and reminder where the legal fireworks are allowed and where they're not," explained CAL FIRE Battalion Chief Brandon Leitzke.

All fireworks are banned in Santa Clara County except in the city of Gilroy. On Friday, someone had already been setting them off in a field in San Martin, and CAL FIRE units had to respond twice to San Juan Drive in Morgan Hill.

Tim Kennedy's daughter has concerns when she hears them. "Well, my daughter does. She looks out the window and was worried that they're going to set the house on fire, but we've got a tile roof. So I told her we didn't have to worry about it too much," he said. Asked what he thought they could do about people buying fireworks illegally Kennedy said, "I don't know. There's not much you can do."

That means fireworks are being bought somewhere. Sales of "safe and sane" fireworks are legal in San Bruno, for example, but even there they can't be set off in city parks or on school grounds. Buyers traveling there from other cities where they're banned say fireworks are an important part of Independence Day festivities.

"We'll find a place where we can discharge them safely and where we're not going to get in trouble. But we look forward to enjoying it either way," Raffy Khorozian said.

Firefighters worry that dry conditions resulting from drought will increase the risk of fires, but they'll be ready to respond if people fail to be responsible.

"If they get carried away with the thought of the day and the celebration, then sometimes people do things that they may not be thinking clearly about. So, our job is to be there when that happens and to make sure that we are prepared as well as we can be," Alameda County Division Fire Chief Rob Schnepp said.

In the East Bay, the Karamat family loaded up on fireworks this morning in Dublin. The kids can't tell you exactly what they will see when they light the fuse, but they do know they're excited about it all.

"They're going to go crazy, hopefully they won't go crazy and burn anything up," Shan Karamat said.

A fireworks stand on Dublin Boulevard tried to do what it could to make sure that doesn't happen. The volunteers there were including more in their bags than just fireworks.

"We make sure we put safety tips in the bag and a map of parks where they can do fireworks," said volunteer Tanya Patrick.

"Safe and sane" fireworks are legal in Dublin, but firefighters say that doesn't give people a license to act recklessly.

"When it comes to safe and sane I would caution people that it does not mean there are no risks. There is still the possibility of injury coming from those fireworks, so when it comes to safe and sane, I would add a third word - reasonable," said Alameda Co. Fire Dept Div. Chief Rob Schnepp.

So firefighters there will be on guard. "We do up staff for the day we bring in extra staffing for additional fire units we also have a wildland bulldozer that's staffed today. We coordinate with CAL FIRE as well. We feel like we have taken appropriate measures," said Schnepp.

The workers at a stand feel confident their customers will act like responsible grown-ups - so the little ones can have some carefree fun.

"Let's just protect our state because it is dry we don't have enough water right now so we don't want to get burned here," said Patrick.
Related Topics:
weather fireworks 4th of july 4th of july event fire fire safety cal fire Morgan Hill Oakland
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