While holiday revelers thrilled to the rockets’ red glare and bombs bursting in air, East Bay fire crews had little to celebrate this Fourth of July as illegal fireworks fueled an increase in emergency calls over last year.

An illegal fireworks display on Bruno Avenue in Pittsburg. Contra Costa County Fire Protection District implemented its limited response plan on July 4 to ensure resource availability during one of its busiest nights of the year. (Ray Saint Germain/Bay City News)

Contra Costa County Fire Protection District spokesman Steve Hill said Wednesday there were 69 fire responses between 8 p.m. Tuesday and 3 a.m. Wednesday. That compared with 44 fire calls during the same period in 2022.

“That’s a significant difference,” Hill said.

There was one fireworks-related injury — a 66-year-old man in Pleasant Hill injured his hand.

Of those 69 fire calls, Hill said 10 were absolutely caused by fireworks. Another 51 were “likely” caused by fireworks. Only eight were definitely not caused by fireworks, he said.

The most prominent of those calls was at 2:52 a.m. Wednesday in Antioch, where fireworks ignited several cars, a detached garage, and damaged two homes near the area of West Eighth and D streets.

Firefighters had the blaze under control by 3:38 a.m. and no injuries were reported.

The district responded to a total of 194 calls, one hazard investigation, one rescue, two alarms, three public services, four police requests, six accidents, and 95 EMS calls.

Contra Costa County Fire Protection District crews battle a 1-acre brush fire near Holub Lane in Antioch on July 4, 2023. Of 69 fire emergency calls the district responded to, a spokesman said that 51 were definitely or likely caused by fireworks. (Contra Costa County Fire Protection District via Bay City News)

Alameda County

It was a similar story in neighboring Alameda County, where illegal fireworks made for a “very busy night” for the Alameda County Fire Department on Tuesday, according to a department spokesperson.

Most of the activity occurred between 10 a.m. and 2 a.m., county fire spokesperson Cheryl Hurd said Wednesday.

The largest fire was called in around 11 p.m. near the 17000 block of Lake Chabot Road in unincorporated Alameda County. The fire spread to 6 acres and required the help of Cal Fire and the East Bay Regional Park District.

An Alameda County firefighter works at the scene of a 6-acre blaze in the 17000 block of Lake Chabot Road on July 4, 2023. The agency suspects fireworks were to blame. (ACF via BCN)

Flames from the Lake Chabot Road fire threatened a housing development near Arcadian Drive and Arcadian Court, Hurd said. Crews managed to protect the structures and no homes were burned, nor were any firefighters injured. Investigators suspect that fireworks were involved.

In Union City, a structure fire was reported at 10:23 p.m. in the 35000 block of Begonia Street. The owner of the property, who had previously been displaced by a fire there in March and now lives nearby, reported seeing embers from illegal fireworks in the air, Hurd said.

The fire started in the backyard of the home, which was covered with debris, and it took firefighters an hour and a half to bring it under control.

Hurd reported an over 11 percent increase in fire-related calls this Fourth of July over last year’s calls for service. In all, there were 185 calls Tuesday evening, she said.

Of the fires that have been fully investigated, 17 were found to be fireworks-related. Hurd said the number will rise as more investigations are completed.

Katy St. Clair got her start in journalism by working in the classifieds department at the East Bay Express during the height of alt weeklies, then sweet talked her way into becoming staff writer, submissions editor, and music editor. She has been a columnist in the East Bay Express, SF Weekly, and the San Francisco Examiner. Starting in 2015, she begrudgingly scaled the inverted pyramid at dailies such as the Vallejo Times-Herald, The Vacaville Reporter, and the Daily Republic. She has her own independent news site and blog that covers the delightfully dysfunctional town of Vallejo, California, where she also collaborates with the investigative team at Open Vallejo. A passionate advocate for people with developmental disabilities, she serves on both the Board of the Arc of Solano and the Arc of California. She lives in Vallejo.