Throwback Thursday: 27 fires caused by fireworks July 4, 2009

In honor of President Trump and South Dakota Governor Governor Kristi Noem hoping to have a fireworks show over the ponderosa pine forest at Mount Rushmore National Memorial on July Fourth, for Throwback Thursday we are republishing an article we wrote July 5, 2009. We are actually combining two articles from that date (here and here) that listed 27 fires caused by fireworks the day before. It was not meant to be a complete list, it was simply the ones that we were aware of.

Fires caused by fireworks on July 4, 2009

During the day we will update this post with news about wildfires and serious injuries that are caused by people using fireworks. Tomorrow we will start a separate post as additional news comes in about wildland fires and serious injuries resulting from the abuse of fireworks.

In 2007, 9,800 children and adults nationwide visited hospital emergency rooms for fireworks-related injuries, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Eleven died.

And by the way, the annual July 3 fireworks at Mount Rushmore Friday night were launched into fog, and the tens of thousands of spectators could only see vague glows in the mist.

1. Bigfork, Montana. A 1/2 acre wildfire caused by fireworks around noon on Friday.

Firefighters from Bigfork Fire Department and the DNRC talk after extinguishing a blaze on Commerce Street in Bigfork on Friday afternoon. The .5-acre grass fire was started by fireworks. Alex Strickland/Bigfork Eagle

2. Altamonte Springs, Fla. Seminole County fire Lt. David Williams said one person was burned Friday night when fireworks landed in the crowd. The patient was transported to Florida Hospital Altamonte.

3. Salinas, California: Illegal fireworks have started a fire on the roof of an apartment complex in Salinas. It happened just before 11:00 Friday night near West Bernal and Gardenia. Nobody was injured, but people have been evacuated from their homes. No arrests have been made at this time. Fire crews are still investigating.

4. Ocracoke, NC: A truckload of fireworks exploded Saturday morning on a remote North Carolina island dock, killing two workers and critically injuring three others preparing for an Independence Day celebration, authorities said. Two volunteer firemen were transported by Dare Co. EMS to be treated for inhalation and exhaustion.

Sharon Tugwell photo

5. West Valley City, UT: Fireworks may have caused two fires at a mobile-home park in West Valley City early Saturday morning, said assistant Fire Chief Kris Romijn.

One of those fires destroyed a mobile home on the 7000 West block of Arabian Way (2660 South). The blaze started in a car at the home about 12:15 a.m., and two witnesses reported seeing something that looked like fireworks under the car. The fire spread to the home and gutted it, causing between $60,000 and $100,000 worth of damage, including the car. It also caused radiant damage to a nearby home.

6. Hancock, MD: Authorities say a vehicle loaded with fireworks has caught fire near the town of Hancock.Washington County fire department officials say the incident occurred Saturday on eastbound Interstate 70. They say a man apparently had bought fireworks from a stand and reported his vehicle was on fire.

7 and 8. Missoula, MT: The [fireworks-caused] fire, up Deep Creek near the gravel pit, was quickly surrounded by Lolo Hotshots, and units from Frenchtown and Missoula rural fire departments and the state Department of Natural Resource Conservation also responded. The half-acre fire was well on its way to being snuffed out early Saturday evening, said Paula Short, DNRC fire information officer.

“They’ve got it pretty well knocked down, but the Hotshots are going to go ahead and put a line around it,” she said.

The second fire, in a field near Lolo School off U.S. Highway 93 South, was also reported Saturday afternoon and was likewise fireworks-related. Missoula Rural Fire Department responded, and the blaze was quickly put out before reaching any threatening size.

9. Harrah, MT: A young boy set off fireworks in a structure on Friday, it starts a fire and several structures burn, making 19 homeless and causing $800,000 in damages.

10. Fresno, CA: The largest fire in Fresno, CA in decades was started by fireworks–burns three luxury homes.

11. Marysville, WA: A family is left with no home after their house is destroyed on Saturday by a fire caused by fireworks.

12. Kansas City, Kan.: fireworks were the cause of a fire in a duplex at 3306  N. 84th Terrace.

13. Padre Island, Texas: People with fireworks caused several fires on unoccupied islands in the Laguna Madre. No homes were threatened and the fire department had no boats, so the fires are being allowed to burn until they run out of fuel, which should happen sometime on Sunday.

14. Burbank, Wash.: A fire that may have been started by fireworks burned onto the grounds of a biodiesel plan early Saturday. About 30,000 gallons of vegetable oil spilled during the 3-alarm fire.

15. Canal Winchester, Ohio:Fireworks were the cause of a fire in the 5900 block of Waterloo Road that totally destroyed a barn, according to a report from the Fairfield County Sheriff’s Office.Victims said they lit the fireworks and put the remnants in a truck, which they parked in the barn. Between 11:30 p.m. Friday and midnight Saturday, the trash caught fire, consuming the vehicle and then the structure.

The report indicated the barn and items inside appeared to be a total loss.The fire caused an estimated $150,000 in damages.

16. Richland, Wash.: Fireworks are suspected as the cause of a 20-acre fire.

17. Greenwood, Miss.: Investigators believe fireworks were the cause of a fire that destroyed Perry’s Pawn Shot and a vacant building.

18. Tehachapi, Calif.: The City of Tehachapi’s annual 4th of July fireworks display ignited a small grass fire that lit up local airport runways and briefly delayed traffic at the intersection of Tehachapi Boulevard and Dennison Road.

Carin Enovijas photo

Within an hour, the grass fire was contained by local firefighters, with back up units responding from as far away as Mojave, Tehachapi’s Chief of Police Jeff Kermode said. The Tehachapi Police Explorers assisted with traffic control at the scene.

According to Kern County Fire Department’s Public Information Officer Sean Collins, county firefighters responded to 245 incidents within two hours of sundown.

19 & 20. Yakima, Wash.: Two homes were badly damaged by separate fires caused by fireworks.

21. Covington, Wash.: From homes in Covington were damaged by fire Saturday evening when fireworks ignited juniper bushes near one of the homes, the city of Kent reported.

The incident occurred in the 25400 block of 163rd Avenue Southeast when flames leaped from the bushes to ignite the siding of a two-story house. The fire quickly spread to the attic and then into the home.

Firefighters arrived to fight the fire, but sparks spread to three nearby residences, igniting their shake roofs. The fires at two of those houses were put out quickly with only minimal damage to the roofs, but the third house was on an adjacent street and had time to spread before firefighters were notified of the problem.

Firefighters from Kent Fire Department and Maple Valley Fire and Life Safety responded. The warm weather forced firefighters to be rotated out of duty frequently to stay hydrated.

Covington police cited an individual for discharging the fireworks in a dangerous manner, although the fireworks which started the fire were “of the legal type,” according to a spokesman.

22, 23, & 24. Snohomish County, Wash: Three structures burned in separate incidents, all caused by fireworks.

25. Tampa, Florida: Fireworks launched from across the street set a house on fire Sunday afternoon causing about $50,000 in damage.

26. Honolulu, Hawaii: We’ll count this as one fire, but the Honolulu Fire Department responded to 45 fires over the last two days that appear to be fireworks related, a spokesman said in an e-mail this morning.From midnight Thursday to midnight last night, firefighters responded to 26 brush fires, said fire Capt. Terry Seelig. Of those, 19 appear to have been started by fireworks. There were also 28 fires in trash bins or involving rubbish. Fireworks may have started 23 of those fires.

27. Sacramento, Calif.: Investigators believe illegal fireworks may have caused a two-alarm fire that tore through the back of an Oak Park home Saturday night, a Sacramento Fire spokesman said.

Sacramento fire crews arrived to find heavy smoke and flames pouring out of the back of a home on the 3400 block of 12th Avenue around 10:18 p.m. Saturday, Sacramento Fire Capt. Jim Doucette said.

The blaze quickly went to two alarms as approximately 50 firefighters worked to keep the flames from spreading to the house next door. Crews were able to contain the blaze to the single home, which sustained extensive damage before firefighters could fully douse the flames.

Typos, let us know HERE, and specify which article. Please read the commenting rules before you post a comment.

Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

9 thoughts on “Throwback Thursday: 27 fires caused by fireworks July 4, 2009”

  1. For those of you still interested – the National Park Service just released a very skimpy Environmental Assessment on the plan to re-introduce fireworks at Mount Rushmore in July 2020 – please take the five minutes to read the EA and comment on this proposal – it’s all public and available for your review – As someone who works on this park, and knows that you folks have a lot more experience in this field, I’m hoping you can chime in with your expertise and make a difference for all of us!

  2. Has any fireworks display at Mt. Rushmore ever started a wild fire?

    I’m asking because I’ve lived in the southern Black Hills for almost 69 years and I am not aware of a single instance.

      1. I guess Carl asked the right guy there.

        I spent quite a few years in Montana and noticed that people there are a little touchy about wildfire; fireworks aren’t quite the big deal there on the 4th of July that they are in other locations. However, on New Year’s Eve, Big Sky Country gets LIT UP bigtime. One year I sat shivering on the front porch and could see SEVEN big fireworks displays. The best one was at my neighbor’s place; he was a sheriff’s deputy. Perhaps if Density Donald pushes hard for fireworks at Mt. Rushmore, someone could help him out by suggesting that New Year’s Eve would be a far smarter date than the 4th of July?

        Does the NPS have fire crews available in January?

        1. All of the locals where I lived cancelled their displays last year; most people were very understanding about not wanting to burn up whole communities- they had the shows on New Years.


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