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City has Zero Tolerance Policy on illegal fireworks

Mike Conway

Post Date:06/04/2018

Merced has Zero Tolerance for illegal fireworks Three men arrested for the sale of illegal fireworks in the City

(EDITORS: For more information on the undercover operation, contact Lt. Alan Ward at 209-388-8840.)

Use a skyrocket or a barrel bomb and it could cost you up to $2,000. Keep using illegal fireworks or sell them and it could land you in court, as three men learned Friday.

Three men were arrested for sale of illegal fireworks Friday as part of the City of Merced's Zero Tolerance campaign on illegal fireworks.

Officers from the DART team arrested two Livingston men and a Winton man on charges of selling illegal fireworks, advertisement of illegal fireworks and conspiracy to sell illegal fireworks.

Officers seized a large amount of fireworks and $666 in cash in an undercover operation. The three men were booked in the Merced County Jail.

ZERO TOLERANCE POLICY

This year the City of Merced has Zero Tolerance for illegal fireworks in an effort to cut down on fires, injuries, noise, lost pets and neighborhood disruptions. 

The Zero Tolerance Policy is in effect for any fireworks not labelled 'safe and sane' by the California State Fire Marshall. Basically, if it explodes or leaves the ground, it's not safe and sane.

Extra officers will be on patrol over the Fourth of July holidays to enforce fireworks violations. There also is a special phone number and email for people to report illegal fireworks.

'The last few years Merced has looked like a battle zone with the sky lit up with skyrockets and the air filled with explosions. It's time for that to end,' said Council Member Kevin Blake, who asked for the increased enforcement of the City ordinance's against illegal fireworks.

'I received a number of calls from constituents who had to medicate their pets because they were traumatized due to the loud noises over the holidays,' he said.

'We want people to have a fun Fourth of July, but not a dangerous one, a Fourth that is enjoyable for everyone, including your neighbors,' Blake said.

'We want people to be good neighbors and stick with the 'safe and sane' fireworks,' said Mayor Mike Murphy. 'Have respect for people. Some of these illegal fireworks explode and leave buildings shaking. They scare little kids, senior citizens, and our veterans and pets who may be sensitive to loud explosions. We need to show consideration for everyone.

'This is the first year of a multi-year campaign. We are expecting to build on it each year,' Murphy said. 'Once word gets out that we are serious, that we will cite you, that we will take away your illegal fireworks, people will be less likely to buy them and use them.'

The City shows a definite uptick in fires around the Fourth of July season when fireworks gain in popularity. While not all fires can be attributed to illegal fireworks, last year there July 4th saw 75 percent more calls than the average day, according to Fire Department records.

FIREWORKS RULES

  • 'Safe and sane' fireworks with the State Fire Marshal seal of approval can only be used from noon June 28 through noon July 6.

  • The non-safe and sane fireworks are illegal year-round, 24-7.

  • If fireworks can leave the ground or go up in the air they are illegal. Illegal fireworks include cherry bombs, bottle rockets, mortars, aerial shells, M-80s and firecrackers.

  • Illegal fireworks the lack of the seal of approval by the California State Fire Marshal.


During the Fourth of July holiday period special teams of police officers and firefighters will be patrolling the City streets tracking down fireworks violators. Once found, the fireworks will be confiscated and the owners will be cited. Repeat offenders could end up in court.

Anyone caught possessing, using or selling dangerous or illegal fireworks is subject to fines ranging from $1,000 to $2,000 as well as criminal prosecution.

HOW TO REPORT ILLEGAL FIREWORKS

The number 209-388-SAFE became active June 1, and people are encouraged to report anyone they see or know who is buying, selling or distributing illegal fireworks. Someone will answer the line as available, but all messages will be followed up on.

Residents can report illegal fireworks displays before the holidays by calling 911.

During July 3 and 4 people are being asked to call 209-388-SAFE (7233) to report illegal fireworks displays, not 911 in order to keep the emergency dispatchers free for urgent calls.

On July 3 and 4 there will be a call center opened from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. and operators will be answering the phones and sending reports of illegal fireworks directly to dispatchers. The information will be forwarded to teams in the field.

Part of the problem with illegal fireworks is that authorities usually receive multiple calls for any one offender. One neighbor setting off numerous skyrockets can swamp the 911 dispatchers with many calls on the same incident. The 209-388-SAFE number relieves pressure on the emergency dispatchers but still allows the illegal fireworks to get reported and acted upon.

In addition, people can report illegal fireworks by sending an email to celebratesafe@cityofmerced.org. Those emails will also get forwarded to authorities.

A third option is to report illegal fireworks using the Merced Connect app. The Merced Connect app is free and available at the Apple Store and Google Play. In addition to allowing you to report illegal fireworks, residents can obtain other information about City government.

The City also will hold a fireworks Safe Surrender Day from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, June 30 at Station 51, 99 E. 16th St. where people can turn in illegal fireworks with no questions asked.

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