FIRE! July Fourth Antics Trigger Blaze on Bernal Hill




The weather last night was uncommonly warm, fog-free, and wonderful for the City’s annual July Fourth fireworks display, and Bernal Hill was packed with spectators  to watch the show.

The official fireworks went off without a hitch, but later in the night, some of the unofficial pyrotechnics went awry. Just as feared, someone touched off a brush fire on the eastern side of Bernal Hill.

Thanks to Neighbor Bernard, for capturing the dramatic photos you see above.

I visited the scene this morning, and I’m relieved to report that the burn zone was actually relatively modest in size:


Whew! We got lucky, and we can all be grateful that the San Francisco Fire Department is so damn good at doing their job.

This is also all the more reason to show Bernal Hill some extra love on Saturday by participating in the Bernal GO Team’s hillside cleanup, starting at 10 am… because the alternatives look much, much worse.

PHOTOS: Top, Neighbor Bernard. Below, Telstar Logistics

20 thoughts on “FIRE! July Fourth Antics Trigger Blaze on Bernal Hill

  1. There was a similar but bigger fire in the brush along the north side of 280, just west of the Geneva/Ocean exit. We figured it had been started by fireworks gone awry.

  2. I live right across the street and it was terrifying for a minute. We called 911 at 1030p, right after the hill caught fire. The SFFD was there within 5 minutes.

  3. Walking down the hill after the fireworks show, there were people lighting their own fireworks on the road right next to all the dry grass. Idiots! I wanted to throttle them.

  4. Lucky indeed. There were a lot of people on the hill last night (some of whom cheered when fireworks were set off nearby) and getting off safely had the fire been nearer to the top could have been a real nightmare, particularly for those with limited mobility or small children. For me this lessened an otherwise nice experience.

    In the future social pressure (boos and hisses, calls to the FD, prominent signage, and direct censure) might reduce the problem. Other ideas?

  5. Many THANKS to SFFD quick response & to SFPD slow response. Could have been alit worse & dangerous. Prevention? More patrols next year…

  6. I saw all that charred brush this morning — scary! Lighting fireworks up amid all that dried brush is idiotic. So is lighting fireworks in your backyard, with a bunch of wooden houses (with no space in between each) nearby, which also seems to be popular.

  7. We had another unfortunate event while waiting for the fireworks to begin. Sitting on the hillside with my daughter, three “tween” boys were playing on the hill above us and sent rocks crashing down. A softball-sized rock hit my 3-year old daughter square in the head as she was laying down, leaving her with a bloody gash. I scrambled to pick up all of our things and threw her into the kid-carrier backpack to run all the way home. No concussion and no stitches required, but a reminder to watch out for falling rocks and careless kids playing on the hill.

  8. The carnage (trash variety) was also as bad as I’ve ever seen the day after….Lots of us humans- with and without dogs- already packed down debris and/or picked up broken glass this morning. Trying not to lose faith in fellow citizens celebrating birth of our fine country in the only way they know how.

    • How about the fellow citizen I found peeing in celebration against the front of my house and in my bougainvillea? Maybe he was just trying to extinguish some illegal fireworks, but he didn’t say. Sigh.

  9. Yes, indeed, I predicted this.
    People who were up on the hill watching the city’s fireworks might have prevented this fire by calling the police the minute they saw people igniting things, but they didn’t. Just a little hipster fun, right? Burning Man, only right here in the city.

    We were all extremely lucky this year: the fire was quickly contained. Will we do anything differently next year? Post some signs about the danger, at least? Ask the fire department to spread the word? Probably not, I’d guess. That might disappoint the hipsters, and we mustn’t do that.

  10. Dear drunk jerk leaving burning sparklers in the grass:
    This is why I was yelling at you, idiot. Fire+grass=bad!

    So glad it was small and that SFFD is so good! Beautiful fireworks, sometimes not-so-beautiful humanity.

  11. Ever since two wooden buildings burned down sometime in the 80’s North West Bernal Alliance made a poin to meet with the Ingleside Police Chief.
    Just before the 4th of July we mapped out just how they intended to patrol illegal fireworks.
    Up til that point the police and fire department didn’t even have a key to the gate on Bernal Hill. We made sure that all illegal fireworks reported the night of the 4th were immediately attended to.
    There’s a newly formed group on the hill called
    Who claim they’ll do anything that makes Bernal Heights a better place to live.
    How about first and foremost – forming an alliance with the Ingleside Police to keep the neighborhood safe next year and for years to come?
    Bernal Heights is filled with wooden construction (new and old) – big open greenspaces that become brown.
    Call 911 as soon as you see someone lighting a match to set off fireworks the house you save may be your own.

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  13. July 4 is the riskiest time due to holiday-induced temporary insanity, but it would be smart to post notifications stating that open flames (matches, lighters, cigarettes, etc.) are not permitted on the hill because of fire hazard, at least during the dry season. Is there some way we can request that from the fire department? I remember there were always signs in the open fields indicating the level of seasonal fire danger at my beloved alma mater, UC Santa Cruz. Those caught people’s attention.

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