SAN JOSE (KPIX) -- With the extremely dry conditions this Fourth of July holiday weekend, authorities are on high alert. All fireworks are illegal in Santa Clara County and officers will be out in full force to catch violators.
Every wildfire season, Stephen Johnson is on alert. He lives in San Jose just a few blocks away from the very dry Santa Teresa Hills.
"During the season, every couple of weeks, we smell a grass fire and will wonder where it's coming from depending on which way the wind is blowing and I think, about four years ago or so right along 101, it came all the way down to the houses," Johnson said.
A neighbor, Duc Dung, hikes in the area every day and he's also concerned to see just how dry it is.
"We had an incident last year up on that hill over there, Dung said. "We had a really bad fire."
"Given that we're in a drought year, that leads to very dry fuels, so our fuel moistures out there are below normal and so that leads to a higher chance of getting fires to grow bigger and easier," said Craig Clements director of San Jose State University's Wildfire Interdisciplinary Research Center.
His team monitors, studies and forecasts wildfire behavior. Clements said the Bay Area has already reached critical condition with fuel moisture lower than normal a month ahead of schedule.
"I just think it's too much of a risk in drought years and with climate change to have personal fireworks in areas where you're close to the wildlands and things can get ignited," Clements said.
Because of the bone-dry conditions, San Jose fire officials have a strong message to anyone thinking about setting off fireworks this Fourth of July.
"In the city of San Jose, all fireworks, even those labeled 'safe and sane,' are illegal to use, own or sell," said Erica Ray, San Jose Fire public information manager. "With extreme drought conditions that we're seeing in the community -- and we've had very dry vegetation out there -- it takes one spark from an illegal firework to start a fire."
for more features.