Manteca Fire Marshal Lantz Rey dropped a bombshell of sorts Tuesday on those that believe they got away with shooting off illegal fireworks during the Fourth of July weekend without getting slapped with a $750 fine.
Rey told the Manteca City Council that a coding error in the “Nail ’Em” app provided by the manufacturers of Safe ’n’ Sane Fireworks through various app stores to help snag those shooting illegal fireworks had prevented the reports from being forwarded promptly to city officials.
The glitch was discovered this week. After the coding was fixed, 145 reports were sent to the fire marshal.
Three of the reports were filed by Manteca Police officers who used the app. Another 35 had complete video and other data as well as critical contact information for the reporting party. The rest didn’t have contact information.
Rey is hopeful that at least seven of the 35 citizens that submitted the necessary documentation along with how to contact them will be willing to take the next step and sign complaints. If that happens Manteca could end up citing 30 people for the use of illegal fireworks. That would be a significant jump from previous years when police and firefighters at were able to issue two citations on a typical year.
The citations carry $750 fines for the first offense. The city already had indicated they were citing 21 people under the new administrative process centered on a social host law.
If 30 citations are issued, the illegal fireworks will cost offenders a collective $22,500. Some of the offenders may not get the citation in the mail until the weather starts to cool. That, however, won’t diminish the fine.
And it could be worse if Councilman Richard Silverman’s plan to push for the maximum fine allowed under state law for the first offense — $1,000 — had already been in place.
Manteca Police Chief Nick Obligacion and Rey both agreed with Mayor Steve DeBrum that enforcement resources were stretched thin responding to calls and fires.
The police, for example, fielded 90 unique complaints about illegal fireworks.
And while fires were down from 14 in 2015, this year there were nine – eight of which were fireworks related — that occurred on July 4 including a significant grass fire that tied up three fire engines on Airport Way. Manteca also provided mutual aid to Lathrop Manteca that had a house suffer major damage from the discharge of illegal fireworks.
DeBrum said he favors looking at increasing overtime in next year’s budget to put even more resources on the streets to go after illegal fireworks.
Public safety officers and the council concurred that as bad as 2015 was for illegal fireworks in Manteca and nearby communities, 2016 was worse.
Dennis Revel who represents the manufacturers of Safe ‘n’ Sane Fireworks said there is virtually no effort at the state level to try to prevent illegal fireworks from being shipped into California.
“Not only are cities the first line of defense regarding illegal fireworks but they are the only line of defense,” Revel said.
DeBrum said he wants to see options on stepping up enforcement actions against illegal fireworks even more discussed in September.
City Manager Elena Reyes noted staff plans to form a task force to explore options.
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