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Without major aerial display Ripon fire officials fear the worst

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POSTED July 3, 2009 2:41 a.m.
RIPON – The once majestic community fireworks display held the last several years at Mistlin Park is just another casualty in the budget crisis that is forcing cities to cut even their most popular programs in order to save staff.

And while Ripon was one of the first cities in San Joaquin County to approve the use of safe-and-sane fireworks, Fire Officials are worried that the lack of a community event will give some residents the idea that they have to put on their own massive show – doing illegal things like setting off massive sparkler fountains off the top of ladders and manipulating otherwise harmless fireworks to create things that explode and could lead to injuries.

According to Ripon Fire Marshal Joel Castro, the department has been lucky in recent years and not had any catastrophic injuries stemming from the use of the fireworks in town. Last year one intoxicated man was trying to run from an altered firework and lost his balance and came to rest face-first on the concrete – the only major injury for the 2008 fireworks season.

But it doesn’t take much, Castro says, to send a house up in flames because of irresponsible residents that don’t realize the fun they’re having is in fact extremely dangerous.

“We’re always looking out for people shooting off bottle rockets and other things that go into the air – fireworks that people will bring back from out state and save for weekends like this,” Castro said. “With how close together some of these houses are, if one fire were to get out of control it could be disastrous for an entire neighborhood – that’s why we’re so adamant about trying to catch those who are disregarding the basic rules of safety.”

While the safe-and-sane booths throughout town will allow for families this year to hold their own Fourth of July celebrations right there in own front yard, they also help multiple non-profit agencies who are picked to man the booths raise money for their respective organizations – putting all of the money that’s taken as profit and filtering back into the community through a variety of avenues ranging from scholarships to food donations.

And as long as the residents are using the safe-and-sane fireworks the way that they’re intended to be used, Castro says that there shouldn’t be very many problems or any dangerous situations. When alcohol gets involved with extreme heat, he said, the ability to make the right decisions goes out the window and creates a scenario where something bad can happen.

“We just want people to enjoy themselves and have a good time while using these fireworks the way that they were intended to be used,” Castro said. “This is all about a fun community event, and the fun goes away quickly when somebody’s house catches fire because someone thought it would be cool to launch off a bottle rocket or mortar.”
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