Illegal Fireworks Set Off During Drought Have Some Bay Area Residents on Edge

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Firefighters said the dry conditions the Bay Area and the rest of the state are facing are unprecedented. But not everyone seems to be getting the message that their actions could have devastating consequences.

"The trees over here are so tall and it was over the house," said Cheryl Best, describing a fire that broke out behind her house Saturday night in Contra Costa County. "The fire was just coming at us."

The blaze forced Best and her family to run outside in their bare feet and pajamas.

"It looked like it was going to come and engulf the house," Best said.

Best said shortly before the fire ignited she heard and smelled fireworks going off in the neighborhood.

"We heard the fireworks going," she said. "It was a lot of loud booms and then we hard the 'shhhh' - you know the kind we knew were going up in the air. And then I started smelling the sulfur."

While the exact cause of the fire has not been determined, Contra Costa County fire officials said the fireworks have likely been igniting some of the county's recent fires.

"We've certainly had a lot of reports of fireworks," Contra Costa County Fire Protection District spokesman Steve Hill said.

Hill said teenagers throwing a mortar out their car window caused a grass fire near Diablo Vally College last week. The fire official also said even the smallest spark can take off quickly.

"Fireworks in particular are very dangerous," Hill said, adding a sparkler for example in dry grass would in 30 to 60 seconds result in a blaze that could no longer be controlled by a garden hose.

Best said the fire that destroyed her back fence could have easily taken her home. She said the nightly fireworks her family has been hearing need to stop.

"It is just too dry out here to do that," Best said. "People can lose their whole life, their whole home because they want to party. It's unfair."

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