San Francisco residents woke up to streets littered with illegal firework debris across The City on Wednesday, following a night of continual booming that extended until the early hours of the morning.
Though 911 calls from 7 p.m. to midnight Tuesday decreased from 873 to 694 compared to the Fourth of July in 2016, the number of non-emergency calls jumped from 522 to 1,114 in the same period.
“It was like a war zone in my neighborhood,” Di Stangl, a resident of the Excelsior District, wrote to the San Francisco Examiner in a message on Twitter. “These illegal fireworks affect all of us…babies are crying, dogs are terrified [and] running away from homes, car alarms going on.”
Francis Zamora, a spokesperson for the San Francisco Department of Emergency Management, said those who used the non-emergency number to report the use of fireworks helped keep 911 available for emergencies, but people reported having difficulty reaching a dispatcher.
“San Francisco’s public safety dispatchers must prioritize 911 calls over non-emergency calls,” Zamora wrote in an email to the Examiner. “Unfortunately, on nights like the Fourth of July call volume and answer times for the non-emergency dispatch line will increase.”
City residents claimed the noise throughout the holiday weekend was more frequent than in previous years, despite warnings from the San Francisco Police Department and Department of Emergency Management of the dangers of illegal fireworks.
Stangl said she heard fireworks in her neighborhood every night since Saturday, and on Wednesday they continued until 3 a.m.
“It is the first time we have contacted the police about this in the past 20 years because it was that bad and I can’t believe law enforcement personnel wasn’t aware what was going on,” Stangl wrote.
She called the non-emergency Police Department number several times to report the noise but was met with a busy line, like numerous others. Once she did get through, she reported hearing an automated message and then being transferred to a fax machine.
Meanwhile, police officers had to determine if numerous “shots fired” calls were spurred by fireworks or gunshots. They investigate such calls by looking for immediate signs in the area and asking around for witnesses, according to police spokesperson Officer Robert Rueca.
“We did have extra patrol officers taking care of all the festivities, from Embarcadero to Aquatic Park, and throughout The City,” Rueca said.
Police response time to calls specifically reporting illegal fireworks is determined by the urgency of the situation in relation to the other calls in the queue at that given time.
“Police officers will respond to those calls, but it will be determined by headquarters if it happens to be lower on the priority compared to the queue of other calls,” Rueca said.
There were 32 reports filed about fireworks on the 311 smartphone app on Tuesday through Wednesday morning, including trash and noise complaints across The City. The highest volume of reports were in the the Mission and Bayview districts, with noise complaints submitted as late as 5 a.m. Wednesday.
The San Francisco Public Works Department said litter from Tuesday’s celebrations would be cleaned up on its regular cleaning routes on Wednesday.
“We received one complaint through the supervisor’s office about firework trash in the Outer Sunset,” said Rachel Gordon, a spokesperson for Public Works.
For instance, debris was seen filling storm drains and piled around a trash can Wednesday morning at 43rd Avenue and Judah Street. The department planned to send someone to the location to clean up the litter, Gordon said.
“We hope in the future that people using illegal fireworks are more considerate of their neighbors and understand that the use of fireworks is illegal, disruptive, and dangerous,” Zamora wrote.