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Anxious Firefighters Prepare For July 4 Fireworks Related Blazes In Contra Costa County

CONCORD (CBS SF) -- After weeks of warning about fire danger, the July 4th weekend is off to a fairly quiet start in Contra Costa County.

"We have increased our staffing this evening," said Fire Marshall Chris Bachman on Saturday evening. "We've called all our investigators back in. We'll be working with local law-enforcement tonight and tomorrow night."

As the evening gave way to darkness Saturday, the skies over Pittsburg and Antioch were relatively quiet. A marked departure from last year, when several fires erupted on the night of July 3rd, before nearly 100 fires broke out on the night of the 4th, effectively a month's worth of fires in just a three hour period.

"The level of activity was so intense last year, on the 4th of July evening, that we had to reduce our responses for non-structure fires, meaning a fire like this goes down to one apparatus, where you
would normally get several," explained department spokesman Steve Hill.

That weekend stretched the fire department to its limits, and the risk has only accelerated since then.

"There's more fire danger this year, and there's more awareness of it this year," said Peter Vickrey of Antioch. "But last year it sounded like a war zone here."

Fire officials have spent weeks trying to drive that message home, that it's just too dangerous for a repeat of last year.

"I hope so," Bachman said. "We have done a lot of work on social media. We have done our demonstration on how dangerous even safe and sane fireworks can be. We're hoping that word has gotten out that it is just too dry this year to even be messing with safe and sane fireworks, which are also illegal in Contra Costa County."

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