FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) — Firefighters across the Valley scrambled to douse grass and structure fires sparked by illegal Fourth of July fireworks.
Fresno Fire Department reported that it responded to at least 135 fires across Fresno, including 55 vegetation fires and six structure fires, said Shane Brown, Public Information Officer. Crews responded to only 78 fires last year.
Firefighters responded to a small outside fire caused by fireworks at a home along Bellaire Way sometime before 9:30 p.m. Responding crews had put out the fire and then saw smoke coming from the back of the structure.
The blaze had spread to attic but crews were able to quickly knock out the flames.
Three people had to be rescued early Sunday morning from a fire that burned through two southeast Fresno homes, Brown said.
The blaze was reported around 1:15 a.m. at a house along Recreation Avenue, near Chestnut and Church avenues. A caller reported hearing people screaming inside.
Flames from the burning home had spread to a second home as firefighters pulled three people out of the adjacent home, Brown said. Fire crews were able to extinguish the flames and save both homes.
Fresno Fire reported that there were no injuries in any of the overnight fires.
On top of responding to calls in the city, Fresno firefighters assisted North Central Fire District crews with a blaze that erupted around 11 p.m. at a home along Pleasant Avenue, near Shaw and Marks avenues, Brown said.
The homeowner told firefighters that he had a fireworks display set up in a garbage can along a fence. The fireworks were not disposed properly and caught fire near a fence between two homes.
Brown said the blaze could have been catastrophic if no one was able to respond as all North Central crews were on other calls.
Fresno Fire also assisted Fresno County Fire crews with a pair of fires started by children along Friant Road, tying up resources.
Brown said the fire department was expecting a busy night and beefed up staffing by adding 10 additional firefighters to city-wide coverage. Those crews stayed on staff well beyond midnight to help handle calls.
Due to the amount of calls across the city, crews stopped responding to medical aid calls for about two hours.
Prior to the evening, a joint task force made up of fire and police officials went across the city to encourage social distancing and urged residents to not use illegal fireworks.
But as the night began and calls started to add up, those crews were handling fire investigation calls, Brown said.
Clovis Fire Department reported that they had already responded to four fire calls in the city in a one hour period Saturday night.
Madera Police reported they responded to over 250 calls for service regarding illegal fireworks.
Officers helped Madera City Fire with various blazes throughout the city that were ignited by illegal fireworks or poorly extinguished fireworks being thrown in full trash cans.
Police reported that the city did not have any major property damage or injuries.
Madera officers made over a dozen arrests for illegal fireworks and confiscated several pounds of illegal aerial fireworks.
In Merced, the police department said officers and firefighters stayed busy, with police responding to 230 calls for service, and Merced City Fire crews responding to 46 fires and six medical aid calls, over a 12 hour period from 6 p.m. Saturday to 6 a.m. Sunday.