PITTSBURG (CBS SF/BCN) – Investigators say fireworks caused a four-alarm Pittsburg grass fire June 17 that forced 2,200 residents to evacuate and threatened 100 homes, and they are looking for suspects Wednesday.
The Contra Costa County Fire Protection District said Wednesday investigators determined it was fireworks that started the early morning fire in the open space south of Jacqueline Drive. Still weeks before the 4th of July, pyrotechnics are already causing problems in the East Bay.
"The cause of this fire was determined to be from fireworks that were set off," Contra Costa County Fire Asst. Chief Chris Bachman said. "And the investigation is ongoing to locate the person or persons that are responsible."
First reported at 2 a.m., the blaze prompted a four-alarm response from both Con Fire and Cal Fire, with more than 100 firefighters and support personnel dispatched to the scene. Structure protection crews were required to protect numerous homes.
The fire burned 121 acres by the time firefighters knocked it down at 6 a.m. Officials said winds up to 30 miles per hour, along with extremely dry vegetation, quickly fed the fire. No injuries were reported.
"We had approximately 10 to 15 acres burning at the time that our first engine pulled up," Bachman said of last Friday's fire. "It was spreading rapidly. We were dealing with 20 to 30 mile an hour winds."
100 homes were directly threatened, and 500 more evacuated during that fire in Pittsburg.
"I worry about it every day during the summer," said Allison, a neighbor who lives just down the hill from the fire.
For neighbors in the Pittsburg area it was the kind of scare they worry about, especially as the 4th draws closer. And the county wants people to know there could be consequences for fires like this, and quite possibly more than fines depending on what investigators discover.
"They would refer that case to the district attorney for review and investigation, to determine what charges could be brought," explained Ted Asregadoo with the Contra Costa DA's Office.
"With the amount of dry vegetation we're currently experiencing from the drought over the winter months," Bachman said. "It's proven, we're seeing time and time again this year, that the fires are getting very large very rapidly, and out of control."
Con Fire officials said the mandatory evacuation executed by Pittsburg Police and the Contra Costa Sheriff's Office, was Con Fire's first significant use of the new Zonehaven digital evacuation tool (county residents can find out more by going to www.cwsalerts.com and clicking on the "Know Your Zone" tab at the top of the page).
The number of outdoor fires in Contra Costa County is up 20% so far this year, but anecdotally officials think the number of fireworks related fires might be down a little bit.
They're not exactly sure why that is. The availability and sourcing of fireworks is itself a bit of a mystery. They say they never quite know what a year is going to look like until it gets the Fourth of July.
Con Fire stresses the danger of fireworks and the value of homeowners preparing their properties with weed abatement and defensible space creation.
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