Fire officials say majority of fires in Contra Costa over July 4 sparked by illegal fireworks

The Contra Costa County Fire Protection District will continue its extra staffing through Tuesday following the July 4th holiday weekend.

On Sunday, crews responded to dozens of fires in just a three-hour span and the majority of them were caused by illegal fireworks.

Homeowners at Ross Circle, said residential neighborhood in Martinez, said they're nervous after a close call.

A fire broke out around 9:30 p.m. on Sunday. Neighbors said it started in the open space area nearby. The blaze destroyed a shed and a truck,
The fast-moving flames burned downhill towards homes.

"The whole front of the house was lit up orange and the hill went up with it in seconds," said homeowner Sean Andrade. "Everybody was running out of their houses, trying to figure out what was going on. It was really scary."

The flames, whipped up by winds, threatened a handful of homes and burned up to one woman's fence.

"You heard an explosion. Just like in the movies, that burst of fire," said another homeowner, Jamie Garcia-Luna. "I was reeling. I couldn't believe it. I was scrambling around."

Scrambling to round up her pets. She says in her 21 years living in the neighborhood, never has a fire come this close.

"It was a very overwhelming, totally powerless feeling," she said.

Neighbors suspect people who were playing with illegal fireworks in the area on July 4th caused the fire.

"The simplest of fireworks that are dropped into grass or near grass almost instantly starts a fire," said Steve Hill with the Contra Costa County Fire Protection District.  

He said on July 4th during a span of just 3 hours from 9 p.m, to midnight, there were 53 fires and most were caused by illegal fireworks. Fireworks aren't allowed in the county.

"It's our view, the fire service view, that no fireworks are safe or controllable. Certainly not in the conditions that we have right now," Hill said.

"We were really lucky and if it wasn't for the rapid response of the men and women of con fire we probably wouldn't have houses right now," said Andrade.

Fire officials said on  Sunday alone, investigators cited ten people for illegal fireworks and confiscated 70 pounds worth.

The district said it says doesn't expect Monday to be as busy as the night prior, but extra firefighters will be on duty through Tuesday morning.