Oakland overrun by illegal fireworks

Germaine De Luca has had it with illegal fireworks in Oakland.

"In the evening, it's like a war zone out here," she said Tuesday.

De Luca lives not in the flatlands, where fireworks are common. She's been hunkering down near Lake Merritt, which has been bombarded by the kabooms of illicit pyrotechnics.

"Fireworks, beyond fireworks," she said. "There are explosions, bombs, our building is shaking, I'm jumping in my apartment, my animals are running under the bed."

De Luca isn't alone. In fact, cities across the Bay Area have reported more potent, commercial-grade pyrotechnics since Memorial Day weekend, much earlier than in past years.

For some, it's a show, a diversion from being cooped up because of the coronavirus.

For others, it's scary and aggravating.

"But this is a whole other level," De Luca said. "This is a...I don't even know how to describe it unless you've experienced it."

And Oakland residents have experienced it, in all parts of the city, from East Oakland to the hills to Jack London Square.

"The fire department definitely hears the concerns and complaints of the community," said fire Lt. Charleton Lightfoot.

While Oakland police and firefighters say they can't get to all complaints, they still need the public to call them in.

"Realistically, there is a lot," Lightfoot said. "But we can do our part, and that's why our appeal is to the community for support and assistance. If the community, we all stand together, we have a strong footprint."

Oakland Police Officer Johnna Watson, a department spokeswoman agreed, saying, "This is a citywide concern that we have, this is a citywide approach."

Oakland police and firefighters will be on the lookout for people shooting off fireworks - and guns. Officers will be keeping a close eye on ShotSpotter, a detection system that can differentiate between gunshots and fireworks.

"We're out there, we're certainly doing awareness, education and prevention. We're not sure exactly how the fireworks are coming into Oakland," she said.

Police say the bootleg pyrotechnics are probably sold out of the back of a truck or on the street.

There are occasional busts. Richmond police seized illegal fireworks over the weekend.

For people like De Luca, she just wants it all to stop.

"I don't know what to do about it. I'm kind of at my wit's end," she said.