Fears of fire danger as neighbors notice illegal fireworks' early arrival

The warm weather, dry vegetation and illegal fireworks are causing concern for people who live in the Oakland hills.

They said this year, the fire danger is higher than ever.

Residents said normally, they see illegal fireworks closer to July 4th. But this year, it started last month and they said it's a threat to public safety.

Firework displays can be a sight to behold, but they are illegal and a threat to life and property.

"We get very nervous because it's very dry," said Sue Piper, a homeowner.

She's nervous because her home was destroyed during the deadly Oakland hills firestorm.

"You're looking at the rubble of my 1991, my 1987 house that burned in 1991," said Piper as she held up a photo of the ashes that was once her home. She has rebuilt on the same site.

"This whole area to the San Leandro border is where we're seeing most of the illegal fireworks happening," said Battalion Chief Frank Tijiboy with Oakland Fire as he pointed to a map.

He said he's already responded to three fires started by illegal fireworks.

"Fireworks are starting a lot sooner than years past, from end of May to early June and that's not typical for our city."

Concerned residents said people are frequently gathering at turnouts such as one at Grizzly Peak to set off fireworks.

Homeowners suspect that the shelter-in-place order and no large holiday celebrations this year play a role.

"There's no place to hang out where people customarily go to hang out for entertainment such as bars and restaurants, so there's more people congregating at these lookouts at Grizzly Peak," said Elizabeth Stage, an Oakland hills homeowner. 

Residents just sent a letter to the city council, asking that Grizzly Peak lookouts be closed during high fire season. 

They fear that as July 4th draws closer, even more people will set off illegal fireworks.

"It's been increasing for a month, so the danger level has increased," Stage said. 

Residents say many young people are gathering at these lookouts and that anyone caught with illegal fireworks faces a $1,000 fine.

If it's a teenager, the parents will be held liable and that teen could lose his or her provisional driver's license.

To report the sales, possession and lighting of illegal fireworks, call Oakland’s fireworks hotline: 510-777-8814 or Email: Fireworks@oaklandca.gov.