Illegal fireworks in Bay Area means extra engines, volunteers scanning horizon for trouble

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- The pandemic has fueled frustration. There's the lack of legal firework venues in the Bay Area coupled with more illegal fireworks than in a usual year.

That has Bay Area fire departments on high alert going into the weekend with many of them utilizing volunteers. From the Peninsula to the Oakland Hills there will be volunteers perched in various parks and hilltops with binoculars looking for smoke or flames that they can report to authorities this weekend. Illegal fireworks have already caused big problems.

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110 pounds of high grade fireworks were seized by Oakland police this week.

Asst. Chief Robert Lipp with Oakland Fire said, "We've had 15 wild land fires in the city of Oakland just since Monday, which is a dramatic increase from what we normally see."

Oakland Fire Department is bringing in more engines as it braces for a tough 4th of July weekend.

Chief Lipp said, "We've also up-staffed three additional fire apparatuses that will be patrolling, specifically at Lake Merritt and we have two additional apparatuses patrolling in the hill area."

They've also got a dozen volunteers armed with hand radios ready to scan the horizon for smoke or flames. It's similar to the set up on the Peninsula.

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Ken Dueker with the Palo Alto Office of Emergency Services said they're using more volunteers.

"Close to two dozen of them," he said. "It's really important because heaven forbid a bottle rocket lands in dry brush up in the hills, our only chance of suppressing that in a timely manner is early eyes on that, early detection."

Penny and Pat Barrett are among the volunteers ready for 4th of July action. Their shift runs from 5 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. in Foothill Park.

Barrett said, "We will bring camp chairs and binoculars and will have handheld radios.We will be scanning the horizon for fires or telltale smoke."

New this year compared to other Fourth of July holidays is the 24 hour closure of Grizzly Peak Blvd. up in the Oakland Hills from Skyline to Centennial. It's a spot people usually gather to watch fireworks shows, this year there will be roadblocks up from Saturday morning until Sunday morning.
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