Saturday, 25 May 2024

Fire chiefs, air quality officials warn against illegal fireworks

LAKE COUNTY – With California a veritable tinder box this summer, the Lake County Fire Chiefs Association and Lake County Air Quality Management District say they're pleading with the public not to use fireworks this year in order to lessen the fire hazard.


The message from the chiefs and the Air Quality Management District comes a day after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger made the same request, asking California residents not to buy even safe and sane fireworks this year because of the fire danger, according to a Sacramento Bee report.


With the resource demand of fire agencies depleted, any additional wildfires – even if they are small – will overburden firefighters and further degrade local air quality, they reported.


The statement put out by the fire and air quality officials Thursday urged county residents to enjoy the county's many larger fireworks shows that are conducted in a fire-safe manner – over the lake and far from personal exposure to individuals.


Safe and sane or personal fireworks only are allowed to be used or sold within the city of Lakeport and are illegal in all other parts of the county and the city of Clearlake, fire officials reported.


City Manager Jerry Gillham said they are moving ahead with allowing several nonprofit groups to have fireworks booths in the city this year.


Lakeport Fire Chief Ken Wells said safe and sane fireworks are an issue because many people purchase them and then take them outside of the city limits.


“Safe and sane fireworks will still start fire in grasslands,” he said.


He added that the fireworks need to stay within Lakeport's city limits, where they can be displayed in certain areas.


Wells noted that fines for illegal fireworks usage are going up.


On Wednesday California State Fire Marshal Kate Dargan issued a statement in which she put illegal fireworks traffickers on notice. "Consider this your first and only warning,” she said. “We don't care if you do it for fun or profit ... We are determined to put a stop to it.”


Illegal fireworks in California include sky rockets, bottle rockets, Roman candles, aerial shells, firecrackers and other miscellaneous types of fireworks that either explode, go up in the air, or move about the ground in an uncontrollable fashion, according to Dargan's statement. Any device that has not been classified as "Safe and Sane" ("State-Approved") in California is deemed by law to be "dangerous" and "illegal."


She said that Senate Bill 839, which became effective Jan. 1, increased the penalties for illegal fireworks while also removing a number of legal, procedural and practical hurdles to enforcing illegal fireworks statutes in the state.


SB 839 – whose supporters included the California State Firefighters Association, California Fire Chiefs Association and Cal fire – can raise the fines for illegal fireworks, depending on the gross weight of the fireworks found to be in a suspect's possession, to as much as $50,000 and/or not more than 1 year imprisonment in a state prison or county jail, according to Dargan.


In addition, parents may be held liable for any fire damage or injury caused by their children using illegal fireworks, Dargan reported.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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