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Illegal fireworks are suspected cause of Poway brush fire on Fourth of July

By Michael Chen

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    SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Illegal fireworks are the suspected cause of a brush fire that sparked as families gathered to watch a fireworks show in Poway on the Fourth of July.

Just before 9 p.m. on Independence Day, as Poway’s two professional fireworks show were getting underway, Adam Burch, his wife, and two young kids had set up their chairs just below the water tower off Danielson Street to watch the show.

“I think about a minute prior, we saw a random bottle rocket go up to our left. I thought it was kind of close, but didn’t think anything of it,” said Burch.

But just minutes into the show, Burch heard a shout from a family near them.

“Maybe the daughter or the mom yells, ‘The hill is on fire!’ or something like that. I look over and see a glow coming from down below,” said Burch.

Burch gathered his family together in a hurry and carefully made their way down the path, within feet of the wall of flame.

“We were feeling nice and toasty, as we’re going by. Luckily, it was early in the stages, but it was definitely scary,” said Burch.

Near the fire, he noticed a group of four to six people in their 20s, or possibly younger.

“They were scrambling around the fire, saying they didn’t want to go to jail,” said Burch.

Burch later took a photo two people in the group, near two different vehicles. He later detailed the license plates to deputies.

Deputies and fire crews arrived at the fire quickly, stopping it at about an acre.

Poway Deputy Fire Chief Brian Mitchell confirmed the suspected cause is illegal fireworks.

“Winter rains created a lot of growth in our grass crop. Now that grass has started to cure. The brush on this hill was dry and ready to burn,” said Mitchell.

Despite a forecast for elevated fire danger, Mitchell says they lucked out, because the winds weren’t strong.

“Strong Santa Ana winds could have threatened a lot of homes and businesses,” said Mitchell.

“I’m angry with them. I understand people make mistakes, but this is potentially a major one. People could die,” said Burch.

Fire officials say one person was detained after the fire. ABC 10News has reached out to deputies, and is waiting to hear back.

Fireworks of any kind are illegal in San Diego County.

If you’re caught setting them off, you could face up to a year in a jail or a $50,000 fine.

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