Contra Costa County authorities urge public to lay off fireworks 4th of July weekend

CONTRA COSTA COUNTY, Calif. (KGO) -- It's been like the Fourth of July almost every night in many Bay Area cities, especially in the East Bay, where on Wednesday fire and police officials showed the public exactly how even a small sparkler can create a huge problem.

From the ignition of a few sparklers in a gutter to fully engulfed, it took just four minutes in a demonstration for those initial sparks to turn into a potentially deadly attic and roof fire.

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"We all know that we're in the throws of fire season," said Lewis Broschard, the Fire Chief of Contra Costa County. "It's just now July 1, but we've been very busy since May with an almost four-fold increase in vegetation and grass fire response, dozens of those, particularly in the last two or three weeks, have been caused by firework use."

Snuffing out the increasing activity has proven difficult for police, a problem perhaps exacerbated by boredom from COVID-19 sheltering and an influx of illegal commercial-grade explosives, readily available on the internet.

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This coming weekend, police and firefighters will be on extra patrols with the emphasis on education.

"If we catch you in the act, it is a ticket," said Chief Mark Bustillos, of the Concord Police Department. "That's the education piece. It's really difficult. They light it, it goes boom, they're gone. My officers are out there when they see kids scatter, it's like 'Hey, get over here!'"

"Frankly, it's about telling parents, 'Tell your kids to knock it off!'"

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