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Fireworks spark fire in Paso Robles after being banned 

Fire season blazes into Paso Robles as firefighters responded to three separate incidents just before the Fourth of July holiday. One fire is assumed to be caused by consumer fireworks which were prohibited by the city.

According to Paso Robles Deputy Fire Chief Randy Harris, the Fire Department had received multiple witness accounts of hearing fireworks the night of June 30 minutes before a fire broke out near Caballo Place and Calle Chorro.

click to enlarge UP IN FLAMES Paso Robles had two vegetation fires and one commercial last weekend keeping firefighters busy. - PHOTO TAKEN FROM CAL FIRE SLO X PAGE
  • Photo Taken From Cal Fire SLO X Page
  • UP IN FLAMES Paso Robles had two vegetation fires and one commercial last weekend keeping firefighters busy.

Paso resident Jessica Benitez said she and her family heard fireworks before they saw the fire.

"We did hear a couple of fireworks, but didn't think much of it," Benitez said. "But eventually we started smelling some smoke and we looked outside the window and saw that it [the hillside] was just burning."

Benitez said they called friends who lived closer to the flames over safety concerns and watched the fire for about 45 minutes.

The fire burned 3.65 acres before being contained by firefighters. The cause is assumed to be firework related, however that hasn't yet been confirmed by officials.

On June 26, the city of Paso Robles released a public statement that said it was increasing firework enforcement efforts and that all fireworks are prohibited. Those caught using them will be fined $1,000.

Chief Deputy Harris said firework enforcement is difficult despite the city now using aerial devices with GPS to help pinpoint the locations of fireworks.

"They are one of the hardest things to enforce because you're constantly being reactive, and it's hard to locate," Harris said.

Another difficult aspect is community accountability, Harris said—for example, to be a credible witness when residents see their neighbor setting off fireworks.

"It's really hard to have accountability for fireworks being launched, so it really takes a community to be safe," Harris said. "The Fire Department and the Police Department, we're all just members of the community, but it takes the community at large to all pitch in and be a little bit safer and a little more proactive when it comes to preventing injuries and fires."

Paso's concern is not only fire danger when it comes to fireworks, but public safety. According to a report by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, there were 9,700 injuries and eight deaths related to fireworks in 2023. These statistics further fueled Paso Robles' decision to prohibit fireworks.

A separate fire ignited the day before on June 29 at a salvage yard at 5755 Monterey Road. According to Cal Fire SLO, multiple vehicles and the primary business building were burned, however no cause was announced.

Another vegetation fire started on Sunday, June 30, at Circle B Road in Paso. According to Harris, this was caused by a tree falling into a powerline.

While fires can start on accident, Harris said the public can still take precautions to avoid further accidental burns whether it's avoiding bonfires and barbecues or putting off igniting fireworks near "dry fuel," or tall dry grasses.

"Human causes are typically what starts most vegetation fires, whether it be intentional or accidental and that is unfortunate but true," he said. "Whenever we have people around environments, accidents happen. But you know, so does carelessness." Δ

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