Busy Fourth for Newport-Mesa

It was a swell Fourth of July for most in Newport Beach — figuratively and literally.

Weekend swells from a New Zealand-area storm kept waves high and lifeguards busy for what's already a hectic day. Newport Beach Fire Department spokeswoman Jennifer Schulz estimated 120,000 hit the sands Sunday, with some 2,000 preventative actions and 259 rescues done.

Schulz said one patrolling lifeguard even had 30 rescues in the ocean waters where waves ranged from 4 to 6 feet, with 10- to 15-footers at The Wedge. She said about 60 first-aid services were administered, as were four others for more serious medical aid.

On the streets, patrolling a busy peninsula and West Newport district were 246 peace officers — 140 from the Newport Beach Police Department, 60 from nearby agencies and others from the California Highway Patrol and Orange County Sheriffs Department.

Newport police Lt. Bill Hartford vouched for a busy Independence Day.

"There appeared to be quite a few more people that came to town than in years past," Hartford said. "The arrests were probably a little bit lower over the last number of years, though."

Police responded to 882 calls for service — the majority for West Newport — and 103 arrests were made, Hartford said. The police department did not have a numerical breakdown available as of Monday of the types of arrests and service calls.

For the Fire Department, there were 59 incidents — two-and-a-half times more than the standard call volume on a summer Sunday, though about the same number as last year, said Fire Division Chief Paul Matheis. Though he had few specifics Monday, Matheis said any injuries he heard about involved burns from fire pit accidents.

The department brought on extra help in the form of more firefighters, paramedic units and equipment that mainly were used to respond along Newport's busy west end.

"It was an active day, but they were able to manage the call volume," Matheis said. "They had a plan and the plan worked."

Significant was a 9:20 p.m. call for a residential fire on the 600 block of Vista Bonita, in the Eastbluff community. First responders saw smoke showing from the roof.

"The fire started low and ran up against the wall, going to the roof level," Matheis said.

Firefighters forced entry into the home they initially thought five people — four children and their father — were stuck in, said Matheis.

"That ramped up the whole exercise," Matheis said.

Responders soon discovered the house was vacant and later learned the five were elsewhere watching the city fireworks display, Matheis said.

The 30 responders from Newport Beach, Costa Mesa and the county had the fire, which started in the laundry room, under control by 9:50 p.m. The official cause of the fire is still under investigation. No injuries were reported.

Up north for the Costa Mesa Fire Department, a fire at Metro Pointe turned into a bomb squad investigation and subsequent false alarm.

A call came in at 9:33 a.m. for a vehicle fire in the upper parking garage level at 901 South Coast Drive, said Battalion Chief Kevin Diamond. The cause of the fire was unknown as of Monday, but after extinguishing it, responders found suspicious-looking bottles inside the vehicle.

Orange County Sheriffs Department bomb squad members were sent in and discovered the bottles actually held water for the car's radiator in case it overheated, Diamond said. The call caused the area to be evacuated until about 1:30 p.m.

The Costa Mesa Fire Department received 46 calls between 7:30 a.m. Sunday and 7:30 a.m. Monday, Diamond said. Seven were related to fireworks and included some small house fires, a dumpster fire and trash fire in the middle of the street. No injuries were reported.

Diamond estimated this year's activity was slightly less than last year's, presumably because of the holiday falling on a Sunday next to a workday.

"Maybe because of it being Sunday that they didn't stay out as late," Diamond said.

The Costa Mesa Police Department did not have information available as of Monday for its service call numbers or arrests made. Sgt. Phil Myers said figures would not be released until Wednesday.

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