Area fire officials found a bright spot in the Independence Day weekend fireworks report: no injuries.
“We did have a significant number of incidents related to firework activity,” Cal Fire/Fresno County Fire Capt. Ryan Michaels said at a Monday news conference. “But we’re excited to report that for the first time in several years the agencies here did not respond to a medical emergency associated with the fireworks.”
Officials from the Fresno, Clovis and Fresno County fire departments reported 283 incidents resulting in $243,700 in damage over the weekend. Fresno accounted for roughly $220,000 of the damage, reporting 127 incidents, 43 of which were fire calls, according to Pete Martinez, Fresno Fire’s public information officer. Fireworks use was the suspected cause in most of those, but could only be proven in 10.
The most costly fire was a two-alarm blaze at an empty commercial building on Abby Street south of Highway 180. Investigators see fireworks as the most likely culprit in that case but are unable to prove a link because of previous fire damage to the building.
Overall, fire activity for the Fourth was on par with last year, according to Martinez, even taking into account severe drought conditions.
“When we compare it to other Saturdays that we’ve had it was obviously a big increase, but there was very little if any increase from last year’s Fourth of July,” Martinez said. “That’s why we look at it and say the impact of the drought wasn’t so significant.”
Most damage was believed to have been caused by illegal fireworks. Clovis Fire Chief Micheal Despain said the few fires caused by legal fireworks were attributed to improper disposal — throwing fireworks in the trash before they were totally extinguished.
Clovis Fire took a new approach to enforcement this year, eschewing patrol by cars, which often were spotted by lookouts who could let those using illegal fireworks know that enforcement officers were on their way, in favor of foot patrols. The department rang up 17 of the 18 citations expected in the county from illegal fireworks.
“We put firefighters and police officers in the field with civilian clothes,” Despain said. “All they identified was property owners and locations where illegal fireworks were occurring. We entered it into a computer system and so we’ll come back this week and start issuing those citations.”
Despain said that Clovis Fire didn’t confiscate as many fireworks this year. “The point is you’ve got to get them in the pocketbook for them to learn for next year.” Fines for all three jurisdictions are $1,000, but can end up totaling more than $1,200 after administrative fees.
Fresno Fire’s Martinez said his department’s personnel were tied up with firefighting and didn’t concentrate on citations.
In Tulare County, there were no fires linked to fireworks or citations issued, according to Tulare County Fire Battalion Chief Jeff McLaughlin.
There were two fires in Madera County and one in Mariposa County, said Karen Guillemin-Kanawyer, public information officer with Cal Fire’s Madera, Mariposa, Merced Unit. All three fires are under investigation. The unit didn’t issue any citations.
|Chowchilla News Day
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