SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Security has beefed up in the Bay Area for the New Year's Eve celebrations. No parking signs and barricades are up along the Embarcadero where at least 200,000 people are expected to catch San Francisco's big fireworks show at midnight. These just some of the preparations to keep people who want to watch the fireworks safe.
When it comes to ringing in the New Year, there's a lot of safe ways to celebrate, but setting off illegal fireworks or firing celebratory gunshots is a pretty quick way to begin 2016 behind bars. San Francisco officials are reminding the public that fireworks of any kind are illegal in the city. Fire officials stress that fireworks are a major burn hazard, even a sparkler puts out enough heat to melt gold.
Crews are stocking the barge with fireworks ahead of tonight's big show. "Tonight at midnight we're going to shoot off a 15 minute display to ring in 2016. We've got about 5,000 devices, few tons of fireworks we're going to shoot off and it sounds like we're going to have clear skies. We're looking forward to a beautiful evening and everybody coming out and ringing a new year," PYRO Spectaculars employee Jeff Thomas said.
Thomas is the man behind the magic. He's been running San Francisco's New Year's Eve show for about 15 years. He said despite the recent terror attacks, security this year is like any other. "We always take precautions. We've got security here 24/7. So we're always at a heightened awareness just because of what we are working with, so there's not been any increased sensitivity because of that," he said.
It takes a team of about 20 people in two days to set up the entire display in San Francisco and then it takes another four hours to dismantle it after the show.
This year, spectators can expect more variety and new color combinations. "It's just always a fun challenge to make the show bigger and better every year," Thomas said.
Oakland and San Francisco police said extra officers will be on patrol tonight and anyone who is found firing a weapon or setting off fireworks can and will be arrested. Both cities plan to have extra patrols out tonight. In San Francisco, every available officer will be on the streets, some of them in plainclothes and others monitoring the roads to prevent drunk driving.
The San Francisco Bay is expected to be packed with boats for the fireworks show, so the the U.S. Coast Guard will be enforcing a safety zone around the Ferry Plaza from 11:59 p.m. tonight until 12:30 a.m. Friday. It's going to extend 1,000 feet off the Ferry Building, Ferry Plaza and Pier 14, so boaters are being advised to avoid the area.
"We want everybody to have fun, but, with the safety zone, we ensure the public stays out of a potential zone for accidents," said U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Marcia Medina.
If you've procrastinated in making plans for your family this New Year's Eve, don't worry, you still have plenty of options.
San Francisco's ice rinks will be open, but space is going fast. The Union Square rink is nearly booked, but there's room at the Embarcadero. There's no age minimum to catch San Francisco's waterfront fireworks show and one place for a great view will be on the USS Hornet.
Families are also welcome at the Alameda Theater where children can play games as their parents enjoy a celebration upstairs.
New Year's Eve is go time at San Francisco's Balloon Magic. Workers there will have turned out some 25,000 balloons in two days. For Ronnie Alvarez, the owner, it's a labor of love
"I love delivering this happiness. When I come, everybody just brightens up and the party's about to begin," said Alvarez. In two days, about 20 workers will have turned out some 25,000 balloons for clubs, restaurants and parties. They average about 300 an hour.
And then when the party's over, people will indulge in New Year's Day traditions. Eating black eyed peas and collard greens on New Year's Day is a Southern tradition for luck and prosperity. At Auntie April's on Third Street in San Francisco, they'll go through about 50 pounds of peas.
"You would like to have 365 peas, that represents each day of the year," said April Spear owner of Auntie Aprils. "We make sure we have plenty of black eyed peas, we don't want to turn anyone's good luck away for the New Year."