AUSTIN, Texas - The Austin Fire Department responded to several fires this Fourth of July weekend caused by the illegal use of fireworks within city limits.
"We see, every year, illegal fireworks are set off in the City of Austin," said Division Chief Stephen Truesdell.
It is a negative side to the holiday weekend that the Austin Fire Department is too familiar with.
"We continue to see fires that are started by illegal fireworks and unfortunately, this year we had a couple of houses, one completely destroyed and one severely damaged, and it left a lot of people without a place to live," said Division Chief Truesdell.
Austin Fire responded to four structure fires caused by fireworks over this Fourth of July weekend. "This was a particularly busy year I would say, especially given the wet conditions," said Division Chief Truesdell.
One of those fireworks fires was on Bethune Ave. The fire started at an empty home and spread to two other homes and a vehicle. Remnants of fireworks could still be found scattered around the property.
Valerie Gomez and her husband lived in the duplex. It has been two days since their home was set on fire. "I'm feeling a little bit better. Just overwhelmed. I keep hoping that i'll wake up and it's a dream," said Gomez.
Gomez says the night of the fire, she and her husband dozed off early watching TV in separate rooms when she was suddenly woken up by her husband.
"I could hear people screaming and yelling. All I heard was my husband kicking my door down and dragging me out of the room. I just saw everything in flames. I was just very scared and, at that moment, I thought I was really going to die," she said.
No one was hurt in this fire, but it caused over $200,000 worth of damage to the duplex and cars parked in front.
"[Fireworks] have a lot of potential for damage and they're very dangerous. That's why they're illegal," said Division Chief Truesdell.
Austin Fire also responded to 13 dumpster, seven trash and three grass fires, all believed to be fireworks related.
"If there's a safety ordinance, it's for a reason. This is why. We're left with nothing. Everything is destroyed," said Gomez.
Valerie's family has set up a GoFundMe to help get them back on their feet.
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