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Firefighters battle flames, illegal fireworks

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Fourth of July celebrations turned dangerous and had crews rushing to put out flames, across the city. Officials say fireworks likely sparked several fires, including one that broke out near Barstow and Contessa -- outside the Island Waterpark in Northwest Fresno.

The only way to describe Wednesday night was chaotic. Fire crews were rushing from call to call -- one right after the other. One fire in Southeast Fresno broke out sometime before 10:00 p.m. Wednesday night. Crews believe it could have been the result of fireworks, as well as another fire outside the Island Water Park that could be seen from miles away.

The fire outside Northwest Fresno's Island Waterpark grew quickly, thanks to dry brush and gusty winds. The fire may have been the result of illegal fireworks. "When it was initially reported, it was a lot smaller, and it was more towards the brick wall... It's obviously wind driven," said Pete Martinez, an investigator with the Fresno Fire Department.

Flames charred several acres of the empty field. Park goers and nearby residents lined up on sidewalks to watch crews battle the blaze. One man said he was concerned as he watched the fire move toward his son's home. "We thought 'well, it's awful close to our son's house,' and thought we better come over and check. Luckily its just the field," said Terry.

Fortunately, firefighters were able to put the fire out. It was one of several they battled all day Wednesday -- many of which were caused by fireworks. "About 98 percent of our problem tonight will be illegal fireworks, or legal fireworks used improperly -- too close to combustibles, stuff like that. But the majority of that is bottle rockets and that type of stuff," said Michael Despain with the Fresno Fire Department.

The fire department brought in extra crews to deal with the Fourth of July rush. While some manned fire trucks, others patrolled neighborhoods looking to ticket people who used illegal fireworks; ones that aren't labeled "safe and sane. "Anyone that has that, you can shoot it. These right here, they don't have that emblem, so you can't shoot them"

One family didn't get a ticket, but investigators confiscated their collection. Despite their efforts though, crews couldn't keep up with all the calls.

Fireworks were everywhere, but fighting fires is their first priority. "It's kinda like fishing in a rain barrel, there's plenty out there, it's just what you come across and how fast you can get there."

If you are caught with illegal fireworks -- the ones that leave the ground -- you could face a fine in Fresno of $1,250.

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fresno, fresno county, fresno northwest, fresno southeast, fire, holiday, local, shannon handy
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