OAKLAND (KPIX 5) — Police and fire crews were on alert Friday trying to get illegal fireworks off Bay Area streets as demand for fireworks rose among people looking for alternatives to canceled public fireworks shows.
As the Fourth of July weekend arrived, residents have seen illegal fireworks lighting up the skies around the Bay Area for weeks now, in areas where the grass, shrubs and trees are already bone dry.
“You could hear big pops, big booms,” said Oakland Hills resident Edward Loo. “It started probably three weeks, four weeks ago. Some of them sound like gunshots – bang bang bang bang.”
Oakland police confiscated 110 pounds of illegal fireworks Friday afternoon near International Boulevard. A no-questions-asked drop-off bucket at Oakland Fire Department’s Bancroft Station is nearly empty now after Cal Fire collected the stash, but had been filled to the brim before.
The Oakland Fire Department is staffing five extra engines for the July 4th weekend with the potential for fire danger so high.
“You have the illegal fireworks, of course, we are in fire season, we have people who have been suffering through a pandemic and they are looking to get out and do something different,” said Assistant Chief Robert Lipp. “We expect to see many, many fires tomorrow. We have had 15 wildfires just since Monday.”
Across the Bay, firefighters will have extra eyes on dry hillsides thanks to trained EMS volunteers like Penny and Pat Barrett. The couple will be stationed at Foothill Park in Palo Alto ready to call in illegal activity.
“We’ll be watching for indications of fires – columns of smoke or maybe visible flames,” the couple said. Hearing sounds and trying to track them, that’s much harder to do.”
Loo has vivid memories of stopping traffic on Snake Road to evacuate his wife during the ’91 Oakland Hills fire. He has a message for people tempted to light off fireworks tomorrow.
“We have to grow up some to take responsibility,” Loo said. “I know that personal rights is valued but at the same time you have to look at the bigger picture and be responsible.”