San Diego

Retired fire captain gives back to San Diego by helping to clean up Fiesta Island post-Fourth of July

On Jul. 5, many of the trash cans there were overflowing with other trash strewn about the beach.

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While thousands of people visit San Diego County beaches on the Fourth of July, not all of them pick up after themselves.

The next morning has become a day for volunteer organizations to host beach clean-ups, like Surfrider Foundation, from Oceanside to Imperial Beach. But, for one man, he decided to take matters into his own hands on Fiesta Island.

“This place was packed wall to wall, people wall to wall, RVs, watercraft, everything,” Derek Jones said, “and some people forgot some stuff.”

Trash is shown piled up on Fiesta Island after a busy Fourth of July, image from July 5, 2024. (NBC 7 San Diego/Dana Williams)

Jones is a retired Fire Captain with the National City Fire Department. He spent 30 years there, and is now looking for more ways to give back to the community.

“I ride Fiesta Island every morning at about seven o'clock,” Jones said. “ I ride the island three times, try to get my workout done for the day and I've realized what a jewel Fiesta Island is and it is pretty neglected.”

On Jul. 4, the San Diego Police Department posted on their X page that Fiesta Island reached capacity before two in the afternoon. The next morning, many of the island metal trash cans were overflowing with piles of additional trash left in seemingly arbitrary spots around the sand.

“People should probably be a little bit better at taking home what they bring. If they brought it you can take it home,” Jones said.

Jones brought his truck, a trailer and two friends to Fiesta Island early on Friday morning to clean up as much as they could. After about an hour, a full trailer and even a full-size grill later, Jones left knowing he made an impact at one of his favorite places and he wants other people to know they can do it too.

“Everybody can work a little bit harder keeping San Diego beautiful,” Jones said.

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