Eleven years ago Vince Hernandez championed making safe and sane fireworks legal to sell and use in Manteca.
Now the councilman — given the seriousness of the continuing drought that has made grass and other landscaping tinder dry along with a barrage of illegal fireworks — wants the city to take a second look at the entire idea of being able to deploy fireworks within the city limits.
Hernandez asked for a report on fireworks related fires and other issues during Tuesday’s City Council meeting. At the same meeting a Powers Tract resident living between Manteca High and Spreckels Park complained that illegal fireworks are still going off nightly in his neighborhood despite the Fourth of July being 19 days ago.
Hernandez said he believed the ordinance as adopted in 2005 had a sunset clause that required the council to review the fireworks issue every so often to determine whether it makes sense to continue to allow them to be sold.
Last week, Police Chief Nick Obligacion showed a locker full of illegal fireworks that officers seized during the Fourth of July weekend that the city will eventually destroy. They consisted of fireworks sold in other states that are illegal in California because they shoot into the air or move, safe and safe fireworks illegally modified, or homemade fireworks.
Obligacion said a police officer teamed up with a fire marshal to patrol the city and either responded to areas where they saw illegal fireworks being shot off or had reports of them being used.
Typically when they arrived at locations people denied the unused illegal fireworks they found belonged to them so police simply seized them.
“It seemed like it was much worse this year but not just in Manteca everywhere from people I talked to whether it was Modesto, Stockton, or Turlock,” the chief said.
It is the uptick that concerns Hernandez especially with the severe drought and dry conditions.
Mayor Steve DeBrum asked whether staff knew of any problems in Manteca with legal safe and sane fireworks. Staff did not.
“We need to remember we are talking about illegal fireworks,” DeBrum said.
Each year, non-profits compete in a lottery for the right to sell fireworks in the week leading up to July 4.
The 15 groups that are permitted to sell fireworks end up pocketing anywhere from $1,000 to $30,000 in net proceeds.
Last year Manteca Police seized 2,400 pounds including 2,000 pounds from one location in the Powers Tract neighborhood where an individual was selling them
Safe and sane fireworks are a $1 billion annual business in California with roughly half the revenue collected going to non-profits.
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