Coordinated Attack on Illegal Fireworks Critical in Dry Year for CA

With years of evidence in hand that illegal fireworks are a threat to both people and property, California police and fire officials are joining forces with the state-approved fireworks industry in the Greater Sacramento Area Fireworks Safety Task Force to continue their annual crackdown on dangerous pyrotechnics as the Fourth of July nears. As in the past, financial support from the industry and the nonprofits that sell “Safe and Sane fireworks” — which studies have shown tend to suppress the use of illegal fireworks in communities where they are sold — will underwrite vigorous enforcement of state laws that ban the sale, possession and use of illegal fireworks.

Law enforcement and fire officials plan to be particularly vigilant this summer because the comparatively dry winter has elevated the potential for wildfires. In the past, fires linked to Fourth of July celebrations have invariably been traced to illegal fireworks, which often explode or fly up in the air. With funding earmarked from the sale of state-approved fireworks by more than 413 Sacramento-area nonprofits, local officials are able to field special teams to patrol, identify those using or selling illegal firework, issue citations and prosecute offenders.

Officials have strong enforcement tools at their disposal: Those cited face fines of up to $50,000 and jail terms of up to one year. In addition, parents may be held liable for any fire damage or injury caused by their children using illegal fireworks.

California has approved a variety of Safe and Sane fireworks that offer exciting displays but do not go up into the air, explode, or move about on the ground in an uncontrolled manner. These go on sale every year in the week before the Fourth of July and are the only legal fireworks for use on the holiday.

Zero tolerance is the focus for those participating on the Safety Task Force, according to Sacramento City Fire Department Deputy Chief Joseph A. D. Jackson.

“The Task Force will be out there in strength to issue citations, confiscate illegal fireworks and arrest individuals if the illegal fireworks are found in sufficient quantities or cause severe damage,” Jackson said. “Those involved with illegal fireworks should consider this to be fair warning: We are targeting you, and we are going to do everything we can to make sure you don’t ruin the Fourth of July for other people.”

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