Stanislaus County fire and law enforcement officials will be out in full force during the Fourth of July holiday period to vigorously enforce state laws that allow them to cite those who sell, possess or use illegal fireworks.
Under state law, those cited face fines of up to $50,000 and jail terms of up to one year. State law also holds parents liable for any fire damage or injury caused by their children using illegal fireworks. In addition, in the City of Modesto those who are caught with less than 25 pounds of illegal fireworks will be issued a mandatory $750 administration fine.
“People who sell or use illegal fireworks are a danger to themselves, their friends and their communities. We plan to do everything we can to stop them,” said Modesto Regional Fire Authority Chief, Gary Hinshaw. “There are plenty of alternatives for celebrating the Fourth of July safely without using bottle rockets, aerial shells and other bootlegged, illegal pyrotechnics that can cause injuries and damage property.”
Hinshaw said local enforcement officials are repeating their successful Zero Tolerance policy, which debuted last year with the catch-phrase “Illegal Fireworks - You Light It, We'll Write It.” Citations will be issued to anyone caught selling or using illegal fireworks.
Police Chief Michael Harden said illegal fireworks have become a major problem, with criminal entrepreneurs importing large amounts of highly sophisticated pyrotechnics that can be sold at a profit. He encouraged citizens to help identify those using or trafficking illegal fireworks by calling the following non-emergency dispatch number with details: 209-552-3911.
“We need everyone's help to have a safe Fourth of July,” Harden said. “Purchasers and users of illegal fireworks may think they are buying something that will allow them to have some harmless fun, but they often get more than they bargain for, causing injuries and damage to property - and breaking the law, regardless of the quantity they use or their claims of ignorance about what is illegal.”
State-Approved Fireworks, which have been extensively tested by safety experts and can be identified by the State Fire Marshal Seal on the individual fireworks or the box containing them, are a safe way to celebrate the birth of our nation.
They include fireworks that deliver exciting displays but that do not go up in the air, explode or bounce on the ground in an uncontrolled manner. Nonprofits sell these fireworks in the 290 communities in California that have approved their use in their jurisdictions.
“More than 3,300 nonprofit organizations rely on fireworks sales to raise more than $35 million to support the many community services they provide,” said Dennis Revell, spokesperson for TNT Fireworks, the nation ' s largest distributor of legal fireworks. “These nonprofits are more important than ever now, with the economy putting more people in need of services just when all levels of government are forced to cut back on programs.”
The Stanislaus County Fireworks Safety Task Force is a safety coalition composed of representatives of the fire service throughout Stanislaus County, the 197 non-profit organizations who sell state -approved fireworks in the area, the Stanislaus County Sheriffs Department, the Modesto Police Department and the state -approved fireworks industry. The Task Force was formed in early 2005 at the urging of the Modesto Fire Department in response to the large number of illegal fireworks activity on the 4th of July, 2004.