2 juveniles detained after ‘explosive mortar’ ignites blaze near DVC

2 juveniles detained after 'explosive mortar' ignites blaze near DVC
A tennis-ball-size explosive mortar similar to this device caused the May 26 grass fire in Pleasant Hill near Diablo Valley College. (Photos courtesy Contra Costa County Fire District)

CONCORD, CALIF., May 27, 2021 Con Fire investigators identified two juveniles believed responsible for an illegal fireworks-related fire. The grass fire occurred May 26 near Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill. This follows another fire last week in the Vine Hill neighborhood of Martinez, also caused by juveniles.

Investigation at the fire scene revealed a tennis ball-size explosive mortar thrown from a passing vehicle caused the fire. Flames burned approximately a quarter acre of grass and trees around 321 Golf Club Road, Pleasant Hill.

The device, designed for use in a special launching tube, exploded, without the tube, on the ground. It then sprayed sparks 360 degrees around it rather than in the air as intended. Had weather conditions been less favorable, wind-blown embers could have threatened surrounding homes, campus buildings and parked vehicles.

Pleasant Hill Police notified Con Fire investigators that they had detained two juvenile suspects. An observant witness saw the pair fleeing the scene at Contra Costa Boulevard and Doray Drive, Pleasant Hill.

Additional fireworks confiscated

After completing the fire scene investigation, investigators questioned the suspects, both 16 and residents of Pleasant Hill. They also found additional fireworks. Police released the suspects into their parents’ custody.

Con Fire arson investigators will refer the case to the Contra Costa County Juvenile District Attorney on charges of Unlawful Fire (PC § 452(c)) and Possession of Fireworks (PC § 44-2.002 CCCO 72-19). The juvenile suspects will also be referred to Con Fire’s Youth Fire Setter Program.

Pleasant Hill PD and the CCC College District Police Department also assisted the investigation.

Con Fire investigators remind residents all fireworks, even if marked “Safe and Sane,” remain dangerous and illegal in Contra Costa County. They urge residents to help them minimize the dangers of illegal fireworks use the Fourth of July holiday nears. Reporting any fireworks sales to the Arson Tip Line at 1-866-50-ARSON.

At 1-866-50-ARSON, residents can leave a recorded message about fire-related criminal activity in English or Spanish. You can report tips anonymously. All tips stay confidentially. Fire investigators may need additional information, so inclusion of contact information is encouraged.