An explosive July 4 in Contra Costa County

An explosive July 4 in Contra Costa County
Photos by Mike Kinney

By Mike Kinney

Data isn’t required to convince Richmond residents that illegal fireworks use ran rampant on July 4. They lit up the night sky across the city. You didn’t just hear them, you also felt their impact.

We do have some data and it shouldn’t be surprising. During the six-hour period from 6 p.m. to midnight last night, Richmond police dispatch received 270 calls from residents about the illegal fireworks, police said. The previous night, dispatchers received 117 calls from 6:30 p.m. to 1 a.m.

By comparison, throughout the month of June, during which the city was seeing a large increase in illegal fireworks use over previous years, RPD responded to 378 calls involving illegal fireworks.

The problem was countywide. Between 7 p.m. and midnight, the Contra Costa Fire Protection District responded to 67 fires, with the peak in the 9 p.m. hour when crews responded to 30. In all, 10 were structure fires and 27 vegetation fires and other exterior fires. At least 16 of the fires were deemed to have been caused by fireworks.

“In spite of dozens of structures threatened, not a single home was lost,” Con Fire said.

Richmond Mayor Tom Butt, a Point Richmond resident, posted video from a high point showing fireworks being set off across the city, not unlike a large sanctioned show that usually occur over bodies of water.

“Those of you who were in the Army back in the day might remember an exercise called the ‘mad minute’ where everyone fired every weapon they had for a full minute,” Mayor Butt posted to Facebook. “That’s what it sounds like in Richmond, except it’s not a minute. It has gone on for hours.”

Richmond police dedicated a team to fireworks suppression and confiscated a lot of them Saturday night, said Lt. Matthew Stonebraker, who didn’t yet have exact figures on the amount seized.

Supervisor John Gioia was among many in the community expressing frustration.

“Just spoke to our Contra Costa Fire Chief who said that fire engines countywide are all busy responding to fires,” Gioia said on Facebook. “That means less first responders for medical emergencies.”

It’s not yet know if there were any injuries from the holiday weekend. In 2019, fireworks were responsible for sending an estimated 10,000 people to U.S. hospital emergency departments.

Fireworks use can also disturb pets and impact individuals suffering with post trauma.

Many neighbors are fed up with the disruptive activity.

“I share the anger and frustration that so many in our community feel about the unprecedented number of illegal fireworks,” Gioia said. “The perpetrators of this are putting others’ lives and properties at risk.”

The illegal use of fireworks has increased this year in the Bay Area and across the nation as citizens shelter in place amid the COVID-19 pandemic. While the activity usually starts occurring in about June, this year it began as early as April, Richmond Interim Police Chief Bisa French said at a recent community forum about the issue.


  1. Next year maybe Tom May have to leave his tower, the one where he looks down upon us common folk. Him and his sons the Butt brothers should go out and enforce firework violations, or is Danielle only tough behind a key board?

    The Butts are is what is wrong with Richmond. They are involved in a majority of the weed grows and Tom is on the MCE board, yes the same place we HAVE to sign up for on PG&E and if you do not opt out you pay more.

    #Richmond residents matter, Defund and abolish the Butts

  2. People were loading their car trunks with explosives and they would light them at one place then they would drive away to another place light up so more, they kept doing the same thing over and over, they were taunting the police. They feel that police can’t do anything to them. these are the same people who demand “defund the police”.

  3. Americans are spoiled. They can’t stay home even during an epidemic. They should go to Africa where the whole day is spent trying to get together one meal. I think the bottom line except there’s a lot of selfish young people in our community today. This is not about race this is about selfishness. I’ve lived over 80 years unselfishness is getting worse.


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