Local firefighters preparing for dangerous 4th of July weekend

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Large-scale fireworks shows are mostly on hiatus in the age of coronavirus.

So instead of crowds packed into public displays, firefighters are bracing for a lot of smaller, less regulated fireworks.

"I think a lot of people who would normally go to a large event are taking it upon themselves to sort of plan something within their neighborhood," said Fresno Fire's Shane Brown.

Brown said they know legal fireworks stands are much busier this year and he's seen aerial fireworks every night for weeks in downtown Fresno.

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Their biggest concern is with illegal fireworks - anything that leaves the ground or explodes - and they've confiscated a lot of them in the last few weeks, including a big stash on Thursday.

Fresno firefighters got 78 calls about fires on July 4th last year, an overwhelming night for the department.

Each call makes the next home more vulnerable.

"You know, one fire takes 1/5 of our resources just for one fire. So, you know, the balancing act that goes with trying to keep up with that amount of volume is very tough," he said.

They're adding 10 firefighters on Saturday night to prepare.

They'd prefer people don't set off fireworks at all, but if you choose to do it, they say make sure you're sober and always monitor your kids, so nobody ends up in the hospital.

"The Fourth of July holiday is actually the most dangerous holiday for us burn surgeons. It most definitely is the busiest time of year," said UCSF Fresno burn surgeon Dr. Nicole Kopari.

Kopari said they treat about 50 to 100 patients every year in the three-day period around Independence Day.

They see a lot of injuries to the eyes and the hands - and kids are their most common patients, because even safe and sane fireworks can be dangerous.

"We all think sparklers are safe but actually the tip of the sparkler burns at about 1200 degrees Fahrenheit, which is hot enough to melt glass, and so that will cause an instantaneous, full-thickness burn on a kid who's playing with a sparkler."

The smoke from fireworks causes health problems too, especially for children, the elderly, and people suffering from respiratory problems - including COVID-19.

And it's also dangerous for pets.

RELATED: July 4th pet owner guide: Fireworks safety, picnic items to keep out of reach and more tips

And one last piece of holiday advice from Fresno firefighters: If someone gets burned or you see a fire, call 911.

But if you see illegal fireworks in Fresno, give emergency dispatchers a break and call 311.
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