Flood of July 4 fire calls leaves Fresno firefighters ‘challenged’ to respond

The Fresno Fire Department responded to 85 fire calls in a 12-hour period, beginning on Fourth of July and into early Friday, two of those calls involved structure fires.

During a press conference at the department’s headquarters, Richard L. Cabral, deputy fire chief overseeing emergency operations and support services, said there was only one case involving minor injuries.

But the number of calls were significant for the department, officials said.

For example, in the entire month of June, there were a total of 99 vegetation fires, compared to 57, thus far, in July.

Cabral said the 85 fire calls the department responded to were from 6 p.m. on Thursday to 6 a.m. on Friday. That number is much higher compared to the number of calls the department responded to on Wednesday night.

“Those 85 fire calls compared to the night before, we responded to 15 calls, is very significant,” Cabral said. “We were challenged as an organization to respond.”

Jay Tracy, deputy fire marshal, said the fire department was able to partner with the Fresno Police Department on Thursday night to address issues of illegal fireworks. There were four patrol cars on duty, with a fire investigator and a police officer in each.

With information submitted by citizens last year and this year, officials were able to identify “hot spots” within the city.

“As you can probably imagine, having four units to cover a city of the size of Fresno, we were a little bit challenged trying to cover the entire city,” he said. “We did make a pretty good dent, I think, with the resources that we did have.”

Anywhere between 22 and 25 citations were issued for illegal fireworks, he said. More will probably trickle in over the next few days. Including an administrative fee, each citation was for $1,250.

It took about 30 minutes for officials to issue each citation, Tracy said.

This year, the fire department was also able to utilize a drone, but due to Federal Aviation Administration restrictions, it was only able to fly the drone about 30 minutes after dusk, for about 20 to 25 minutes in northeast Fresno, Tracy said. Two locations for illegal fireworks were identified with the assistance of the drone.

More than 250 reports of illegal fireworks were received by the fire department. Tracy said unfortunately, nobody was willing to sign a declaration to help bust those in possession of the fireworks.

The Clovis Police Department received a total of 135 calls for illegal fireworks, 483 calls for service and two gunshot calls, according to Clovis police spokesman Ty Wood. There were zero citations for illegal fireworks.

Yesenia Amaro: 559-441-6144, @YeseniaAmaro

Reporter Jim Guy contributed to this report.

Yesenia Amaro covers immigration and diverse communities for The Fresno Bee. She previously worked for the Phnom Penh Post in Cambodia and the Las Vegas Review-Journal in Nevada. She recently received the 2018 Journalistic Integrity award from the CACJ. In 2015, she won the Outstanding Journalist of the Year Award from the Nevada Press Association, and also received the Community Service Award.