No official numbers exist, but to say Crescent City was crowded on Wednesday would be an understatement.
Revelers filled hotels, RV parks and campgrounds on Independence Day. They built bonfires and erected tents on the beach. The Crescent City Harbor, Beachfront Park and Brother Jonathan Point were packed as people took in Pyrospectacular’s fireworks display. Some had enough firepower of their own to provide a show that rivaled the professionals.
Meanwhile, employees with the city and harbor and volunteer firefighters with Crescent Fire and Rescue worked hard to meet the challenge.
“We ended up out for a couple of hours after the majority of folks left, putting out campfires,” said Bill Gillespie, Crescent Fire and Rescue’s interim chief. “In fact we were also back down (there) this morning for a couple hours on South Beach, basically from Anchor Way all the way to Enderts, putting out fires that had been left on the beach when folks left.”
Gillespie estimated firefighters extinguished between 80 and 100 campfires on the beach from Enderts Beach to past Battery Point.
Crescent Fire and Rescue personnel also responded to a minor grass fire caused by a firework near the waterfront at the foot of B Street, Gillespie said. They also wound up at the Crescent City Harbor’s inner boat basin for a plastic tote that had caught fire, he said.
“There were a few of the plastic fish box totes that were set out as places where people could dispose fireworks debris,” Gillespie said. “Unfortunately some of the debris that went into one of them was smoldering and caught on fire and burned the tote up. It kept us busy through the evening until late last night.”
Crescent Fire and Rescue weren’t called out for structure fires or injuries related to fireworks, Gillespie said. Even though the holiday is over, he said people may still be lighting fireworks.
“We encourage people to be safe with them to follow any directions and try and keep them away from buildings and tall grass,” Gillespie said. “Everything is really, really dry as we’ve seen to the north of us and south of us. There are some big fires going.”
At Crescent City Harbor, the crowd was so overwhelming that the person working security asked his colleagues to come in earlier, said Deputy Harbor Master Lane Tavasci. At about 10 p.m. they began directing traffic as people left following the professional fireworks display. A volunteer firefighter helped with traffic control, Tavasci said.
And then, at 11:50 p.m., security was notified of a trash can on fire on Anchor Way, Tavasci said. It wound up being destroyed, he said.
“The good thing, I don’t know who did it, the city or the county, they put regular trash cans out on (U.S.) 101,” Tavasci said. “The county and the harbor went together and we had two ADA restrooms out there.”
Tavasci said the Fourth of July is always a busy time for the harbor. He said people were putting up tents big enough to hold 20 people, they sat on the docks and the promenade overlooking the water to watch the professional display.
On Thursday morning, Tavasci said the harbor was still happening. Cars were parked on both sides of Anchor Way from U.S. 101 to Whaler Island, he said. Tavasci said he also counted 25 cars with boat trailers near the Chart Room restaurant.
“What we really, really like is when people come down and take a nice look at the harbor,” Tavasci said. “A lot of these people are tourists. It’s also good for all the restaurants we have here. Everybody does well on holidays like that.”
Crescent City prepares for the holiday weeks, even months in advance, said City Manager Eric Wier, working with the Crescent City-Del Norte County Chamber of Commerce, the Crescent City Police Department and the fire department.
“When the town swells to that order of magnitude we need to have all the resources in place and a pre-plan to accommodate all those people,” Wier said.
This starts with figuring out the lineup of the parade, when to set up the street barricades and who will be tasked with picking them up, Wier said. Then there’s figuring out who’s going to be in charge of making sure the trash cans are emptied and the public restrooms restocked with toilet paper and other items, he said.
According to Wier, three public works employees worked various shifts throughout the day starting at 6:30 a.m. and working through the end of the fireworks display at about 10 p.m. There’s more people working on a normal day, but most employees would be off on a typical holiday, he said.
“The city police department did basically the same thing with multiple shifts and had as many as five officers on,” Wier said.
As for the business side of things, Sarah Caron, the chamber’s executive director, said most business owners are reporting greater numbers than they anticipated for the holiday.
“I called Eileen Brown, who owns three hotels in town, and she said she was all booked out and that other businesses and hotels she refers people to when she’s booked were booked as well,” Caron said. “It seems as though most of the hotels in the community were booked and Eileen mentioned that she had people booking for three days as opposed to a typical one-day stay.”
Caron also spoke with Redwood National and State Parks staff and said their campgrounds were also booked up.
Caron also noted the event itself, particularly the festival at Beachfront Park, is growing. This year there were 17 marketplace vendors, 19 food vendors and nine game vendors, she said. Caron said in future years, to be able to house more than 19 food vendors, more electricity would be necessary.
“We’re at a place where we’ve grown to capacity as far as where our vendors are in the park,” she said. “For growing this event, we’ll need to just work with the city to make some room to grow the event.”
Reach Jessica Cejnar at firstname.lastname@example.org .