This file photo shows the one-time Fourth of July Fireworks in Berkeley. Officials this year reminded residents that all fireworks — including so-called ‘safe and sane’ ones — are banned in the city. Credit: Pete Rosos

Berkeley, Oakland and UC Berkeley police are closing several streets in the hills as a precaution against forest fires sparked by fireworks scofflaws and other hazards, as they have done in recent years.

In the runup to the Fourth of July, city officials are reminding residents that fireworks of any kind, even those marketed as “safe and sane,” are illegal in Berkeley, and asked residents to help prevent injuries and forest fires by foregoing fireworks entirely, particularly in the Berkeley Hills, where fires can spread especially quickly.

The city announced closures on Grizzly Peak Boulevard and Panoramic Way.

For 24 hours beginning at 5 a.m. Tuesday, Grizzly Peak Boulevard will be closed for the 5-plus miles between Centennial Drive and Skyline Boulevard, except for residents traveling to and from their homes, as well as delivery vehicles, according to the city’s announcement.

Traffic posts will be running at these intersections to prevent through traffic:

  • Centennial Drive between Stadium Rim Way and Grizzly Peak Boulevard
  • Lomas Cantadas and Grizzly Peak Boulevard
  • South Park and Grizzly Peak Boulevard
  • Claremont Avenue, Fish Ranch Road and Grizzly Peak Boulevard
  • Skyline Boulevard and Grizzly Peak Boulevard

“City personnel will not allow traffic past these points unless people can show that they live on Grizzly Peak Boulevard or the immediate area,” according to the announcement.

Similarly, from 2 p.m. Tuesday until midnight, Panoramic Way will be closed to non-residents at Prospect Street.

No stopping will be allowed on Grizzly Peak, and all turnouts will be closed, according to the announcement. The Lawrence Hall of Science and UC Berkeley Botanical Gardens on Centennial will also be closed.

“Historically, the UC Berkeley parking lots and the emergency turnouts along Grizzly Peak Boulevard have been popular spots to view the San Francisco Bay Area skyline on Independence Day,” according to a statement from university police. “This has caused overcrowding, illegal parking in the roadway and delayed emergency services’ response to calls for service.”

Barriers erected at Grizzly Peak Boulevard in Oakland on Oct. 3, 2020. Credit: Cathy Scharf

Earlier this year, Oakland officials said the tree trunks in the turnouts placed there in 2020 were likely to remain.

Fireworks are also banned in the East Bay Regional Parks District, which announced closures of its own around July 4, some overlapping the closures the city announced and running the same 24-hour period:

  • South Park Drive to Padre Picnic Area
  •  Wildcat Canyon Road from Camino Pablo to Inspiration Road

Due to a bridge failure, the Memory Trail is closed between Canon Drive and Selby Trail.

“The rain has created an incredible amount of fuel for potential wildfires,” Alameda County Fire Chief William McDonald said in a prepared statement. “We really need people to be safe with fireworks activities. We have the staff and are prepared for this fire season.”

County fire officials said they would keep additional firefighters and trucks on hand on July Fourth.

Although the Berkeley Marina used to host firework displays on July Fourth, they have not gone on since 2019 because of budget constraints, said Matthai Chakko, a spokesperson for the city.

Event organizers at Berkeley’s July Fourth celebration at the marina, as with the Berkeley Kite Festival, faced steeper and steeper overhead over time as Berkeley’s Marina Fund got further and further into the red.

This 2015 file photo shows fireworks at the Berkeley Marina. Photo: Kevin Schofield

“The guidelines were so prohibitive for us and expensive,” said Lisa Bullwinkel, who for decades ran the fireworks events at the Berkeley Marina and has since retired.

Bullwinkel said she had been ready to pass the fireworks event on to a successor, but none wanted to take it on.

Between the fireworks and the Berkeley Kite Festival, “we lost two iconic, very amazing, well-attended, loved-by-the-community events, and they could’ve gone on for longer,” Bullwinkel said.

Those setting off fireworks could be liable for any injuries, fires or other damage they cause, according to the city’s announcement.

City and university officials asked anyone who sees fireworks being discharged to contact the Berkeley Police Department’s non-emergency dispatch at (510) 981-5900, university police at (510) 642-6760 or the Oakland Police Department at 510-777-3333, or if there’s an emergency, to call 911.

Anyone with fireworks that they wish to dispose of may hand them over to the Berkeley Fire Department at any city fire station.

Alex N. Gecan joined Berkeleyside in 2023 as a senior reporter covering public safety. He has covered criminal justice, courts and breaking and local news for The Middletown Press, Stamford Advocate and...