For most, Fourth of July evening means parties and fireworks, but for thousands of police officers and firefighters, it’s all about overtime.
With drought-fueled concerns over what’s already been a horrible fire season in California, many Bay Area cities aren’t taking any chances. In San Mateo, both Shoreline parks, Ryder and Seal Point, will be closed for the first time on Fourth of July starting 6 p.m. Friday.
“We've had such a dry winter, a lot of dry grass, a major fire hazard,” said Richard Decker with the San Mateo Police Department. “Park rangers are seeing an uptick in use of illegal fireworks. It made sense to close it early this year.”
Some balked at the city shutting down parks instead of opening them in celebration of the holiday.
“I think they should be able to come out here,” said Frank Torre of San Mateo. “Some people don’t want to go to the fireworks events, centers or different areas, and just want to chill out here.”
Most, however, were supportive of the city’s decision to err on the side of safety.
“It’s a tradeoff. So maybe you don’t get to see fireworks from an elevated perspective, but if it saves a fire and potentially hurting people, I think it’s worth it,” said Kara Gregorich of San Mateo.
Jose Duenas, who also lives close to the Shoreline parks, agreed. “It’s safe for the kids, because I [have] a family and everything so I think it’s better.”
It was just Wednesday night in Antioch when Contra Costa County firefighters had to put out a small brush fire on the Park Middle School campus. Firefighters believe the fire was likely set off by someone igniting illegal fireworks.
In San Jose, firefighters said they had to put out their own fires in the weeks leading up to the holiday. The San Jose Fire Department is stepping up patrols from Friday through Sunday, including three engines, two brush fire patrols and additional fire inspectors.
“They’ll be roaming throughout the city checking high hazard areas from ten a.m. till ten p.m., so we will have high visibility,” said Cleo Doss, a spokesman for the San Jose Fire Department.
For Kara Gregorich, the support behind not just closing the parks but also banning fireworks in general is personal. In fact, it’s deeply-rooted in her since childhood.
“My dad was a captain for the Stockton Fire Department so it was a big safety issue there,” she said. “It was a big safety issue there. We could never have them in our backyard or anything, so I’m all for it, really.”