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Fourth of July fallout

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POSTED July 6, 2010 2:09 a.m.
It was a Fourth of July many years ago – I was only a kid of 12 who loved shooting off fireworks from the safe ones and not so safe. M80s were the ultimate in Southern California, but I limited myself to simple fire crackers that were actually hard to come by unless you drove into downtown Los Angeles where somebody would be on the street hawking imported crackers by the pack.

That was the year a single firecracker almost took the hearing in my right ear and brought a definite respect for those short fuses.  I had tried to throw a lit firecracker over the rear concrete block wall at our home when it went off in my hand next to the right side of my head.

My friends and I were totally inventive in what could be done with a firecracker from sending a soup can skyward to inserting one into a potato or a tomato.  It was great, albeit dangerous fun – except for the ear injury and the bloody fingers.  And attempts to relight the almost non-existing fuses that had gone out would really test a guy’s speed in beating the resulting blast.

Now some 60 years later many in our neighborhoods think it is okay to do their thing – whatever that is – in the name of celebrating our independence.  Thanks to my job I often get to see firsthand the results of bad decisions on the street.  It’s not always pretty.  House fires and people trapped in cars have been situations where I’ve wished we could turn back the clock and reverse those tragedies.

 It was interesting to read the blogs on the Manteca Bulletin website Monday morning and see two schools of thought by adults.  One suggests we as a community close our ears to what sounded like a war zone Saturday night from French Camp to Modesto because kids will be kids.  Anyone against fireworks is against America, really?

Another called for sanity in setting off fireworks, asking adults to remember they are role models for the younger set.  She told of seeing a two-year-old child struck by fallout from fireworks with adults appearing oblivious to the toddler’s injury.  The writer also voiced her concern about fallout causing a house fire as happened in Modesto.  She told of witnessing kids shooting fireworks at each other on the east side of Manteca during the afternoon hours Saturday.

Driving around the rear of a Ripon drug store after picking up a prescription Monday morning we found a used six pack casings of bottle rockets that apparently had been fired off from that location.  It’s pretty much a guy thing – big boys as well as teens and younger – but the dangers can’t be ignored as they were Saturday night.

The cops were obviously overwhelmed. Neighbors hesitated in calling officers even after hours about bottle rocket activity that some believed threatened those with wood shakle roofs.  One officer told me the explosions just kept coming from every direction.

What surprised me was the volume of the illegal fireworks, especially the bottle rockets that were being fired non-stop into the air over all our communities.  It was almost like someone or a group of people had brokered the sale of the rockets in the region.  They could have come out of Nevada, Mexico or any other state that allows what appeared to reach the professional level in Lathrop.

Manteca Police public affairs officer Rex Osborn had his own thoughts, “The city’s goal was for our citizens to have a safe and sane holiday.  However, we knew someone would break the law.  We said when they do, we would attempt to hold them accountable.”

As for being a responsible citizen – a neighbor at best – covering the ears and looking the other way just doesn’t add up.  Hey, when we were young, we even put a firecracker into a paper airplane – now that was pure stupidity, almost as bad as adults mixing a few beers with bottle rockets.

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