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Lathrop steps up pressure on illegal fireworks

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POSTED March 17, 2017 1:09 a.m.

Could the “war zone” that comes with the Fourth of July become a thing of the past?
On Monday, the Lathrop City Council voted unanimously to authorize Lathrop Police Services and the Lathrop Manteca Fire District to issue citations to tenants or property owners where illegal fireworks are being used in an attempt to crack down on the number of illegal fireworks that are spotted from the week prior to the holiday and sometimes several weeks following.
Once those citations are issued, it will be Lathrop City Attorney Salvador Navarrete who will prosecute them in San Joaquin Superior Court – eliminating the need to send them to the District Attorney’s office for referral where they are often overlooked because of a more pressing caseload and a lack of resources.
According to Mayor Sonny Dhaliwal, the decision of the council will change the course of action moving forward to combat the public safety issue and nuisance and sends a strong message that the City of Lathrop does not condone their use or will allow it continue unabated.
“It’s a two-pronged approach. We want our citizens to enjoy safe-and-sane fireworks but we need to curb the use of illegal fireworks,” Dhaliwal said. “People who use illegal fireworks are not only putting neighbors in danger, they’re putting themselves in danger as well – anything can go bad with those and we have a disaster on our hands.
“People can get hurt, it can start a fire – I urge all of our residents who continue to use those to stop, and know that if they’re caught by law enforcement or first responders they will be cited and it can be expensive.”
Things got so bad last year that the Lathrop Manteca Fire District found a new way to utilize their drone – giving an aerial perspective to where illegal fireworks were being shot off. That added capability is just another tool in the arsenal of the fire services that can be used if the Fire Chief should direct it’s use according to Battalion Chief Larry Madoski.
“Right now, we’re going to be working through the draft policy to determine the best way to attack this so to speak,” Madoski said. “From this point going forward it’s going to be all about the most effective way to end the use of illegal fireworks.”
In at least one instance last year investigators determined that a roof fire on a Lathrop home was started when an errant aerial firework landed on the dry shingles and ignited – something that they had long feared would happen if the use of aerial fireworks continued to increase like it has over the course of several years.
Several grass fires were also believed to be caused by errant fireworks falling to the ground – still smoldering from the powder used to ignite and carry it into the air.
Lathrop’s ordinance is similar to one that the City of Manteca approved last year in a renewed focus to prevent illegal fireworks from take hold in the community. On top of police action to intercept deliveries from traffickers and importers, the City of Manteca deployed the use of an app – created by on the major safe-and-sane fireworks companies – that allows those who see illegal fireworks being used to take video, pinpoint the location, and send it in for review. If the burden of proof is met, the city would then issue citations – which went up in cost significantly to deter would-be users. Dozens of those citations were issued by the time the fireworks season was over.

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email jcampbell@mantecabulletin.com or call 209.249.3544.

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