California Crews Scramble to Douse Blazes From Fireworks

July 7, 2020

SAN FRANCISCO — Firefighters scrambled to douse grass and structure fires sparked by illegal Fourth of July fireworks across California.

The city of San Francisco saw at least 100 fires between 3 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. Saturday, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. The fire department tweeted about roughly 15 blazes in a single hour, the newspaper said.

To the south in Santa Clara County, firefighters continued on Sunday to battle a 100-acre (40-hectare) vegetation fire that prompted evacuations near Morgan Hill.

Across the bay in Contra Costa County, firefighters responded to 50 fires between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. alone, according to a count by the Chronicle. Blazes were also reported in Marin and Alameda counties.

Firefighters treated people for minor injuries, but it wasn’t immediately clear how many were hurt.

Further south, crews in Fresno responded on Saturday to at least 70 fires triggered by fireworks, officials said.

Resources were spread so thin that the city’s fire department temporarily stopped responding to medical aid emergencies except cardiac arrest, the Fresno Bee reported.

By early Sunday, Fresno Fire was still working on 14 fires throughout the city and “our resources have been completely stretched to the max,” department spokesman Shane Brown said.

Fresno City Councilmember Luis Chavez told the newspaper it was “the worst fireworks night he’s ever seen.”

No injuries were reported in the Fresno area fires.

The Los Angeles Fire Department responded to thousands of emergency calls Saturday and extinguished at least one large blaze that consumed half an apartment complex in the Northridge area, officials said.

Fireworks emit high levels of particulate matter and July 4 and 5 are typically among the region’s worst days when it comes to poor air quality, the Los Angeles Times reported. Air quality throughout most of Los Angeles County ranged from unhealthy to very unhealthy as of Sunday morning, health officials said.

Fireworks are illegal in most areas. Many communities canceled traditional fireworks displays because of the coronavirus pandemic.

A brush fire Sunday that was unrelated to fireworks in Agua Dulce, a town north of Los Angeles, forced the temporary closure of a stretch of State Route 14, local media report.

The fire burned about 400 acres. Several homes were evacuated, local media report.

A fire that has burned more than 2.3 square miles (5.1 square kilometers) north of Gilroy was 15% contained, and a smaller fire east of Morgan Hill was 70% contained, KRON-TV reported.

Weather conditions in that region improved early in the morning, with increasing humidity, decreasing winds and cooling temperatures, the National Weather Service said. But the service warned that fuels remain very dry.

About the photo: Firefighter Daniel Abarado lights a backfire while working to contain the Crews Fire from near Gilroy, Calif., on Sunday, July 5, 2020. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

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