The number of illegal fireworks lighting up the skies over Manteca dwarfed the city’s aerial display especially after a launch accident sent a man detonating them to the hospital with leg burns forcing the pyrotechnic show to be called off after only a third of the rockets were fired.
Fire Chief Kirk Waters said an employee of J&M Displays was treated for second degree burns at Doctors Hospital of Manteca following the mishap at the launch site near the wastewater treatment plant Monday night.
One of the mortars after been lit became stuck and exploded while still on the ground. Firefighters on scene quickly got the situation under control. Given the nature of the incident and potential damage to launch equipment Manteca fire officials shut down the aerial display that had started about 10 minutes earlier.
Waters said the incident is being investigated by the Manteca Police bomb squad, the Manteca Fire Department and the State Fire Marshal’s office.
Upwards of 10,000 people that had crowded streets and parks within viewing distance started dispersing 10 minutes after the last mortar was fired.
City Manager Karen McLaughlin indicated company officials were planning on crediting the city based on the number of mortars that weren’t fired. The city is required to pay in advance for the fireworks display that costs in excess of $15,000.
Fair amount of Manteca
residents livid about use
of illegal firworks
While those viewing the legal aerial fireworks show were disappointed, a fair number of Manteca residents subjected to illegal aerial fireworks shows well into the wee hours of Tuesday morning were livid.
Three residents appeared at the Manteca City Council meeting Tuesday asking the council to pull the plug on all fireworks in Manteca including the legal Safe and Sane version.
“It is like living in a war zone,” said Karen Groupe who told the council her home was surrounded by “360 degrees” of illegal fireworks at one point.
“This will go on all year,” Groupe said of the use of illegal fireworks.
Bruce Lownsbery said he was stunned by neighbors wantonly firing off illegal fireworks, their disregard for others and the law as well as getting confrontational when they were asked to cease using them.
He said people obeying the law are fearful of retaliation if they report offenders to the police or make a citizens complaint.
Lownsbery believes outlawing all firworks will make it easier for the “outnumbered” city police and firefighetrs to enforce the law.
wants city to get
The fallout from the three-day barrage could mean a more forceful enforcement next year.
“This is going to take a couple more years of aggressive enforcement to get a handle on illegal fireworks in the City of Manteca,” Waters said. “We knew it wouldn’t have a big impact on illegals this year but as more and more citizens receive big fines and with more of the same aggressive public outreach each year should get safer and safer.”
Chief Waters were hopeful that once people received $750 fines in the mail for documented offenses that word would get out and 2017 might be calmer. But council members irked by what some say was an even worse weekend than the flagrant use of illegal firworks during the Fourth of July holiday in 2015 aren’t planning on waiting.
They directed staff to bring city efforts to curb illegal fireworks back to the council in October to review other options aimed at reducing their use.
Councilman Richard Silverman reflected the council’s sentiments by noting the problem isn’t with Safe and Sane Fireworks. He suggested going to the maximum fine allowed under state law — $1,000 — on the first offense. Currently the first offense carries a $750 fine and each subsequence offense a $1,000 fine.
Councilman Mike Morowit noted while things were bad in his neighborhood in Union Ranch when he traveled south of the 120 Bypass on Monday night “it looked like Woodward Park (neighborhood) was on fire.”
Mayor Steve DeBrum said he was inundated by complaints about illegal firworks.
He said at the minimum he’d like to look at perhaps having even more police officers on duty — if possible — during the Fourth of July weekend or at the very least, having officers in plainclothes drive around the city documenting illegal fireworks use. In Clovis, two officers bicycled around that community last year and were able to issue 30 citations.
Upwards of 35 facing
possible $750 fines
Those being fined under the new social host ordinance that requires only documentation that illegal fireworks were launched from a specific property instead of actually catching someone in the act won’t receive word they are being fined for several weeks as officials shift through videos and determine who is in control of the property in question a renter or if it is owner occupied. Those are the people who will have $750 fines slapped against them.
DeBrum said if state law allowed it he would be in favor of $10,000 fines to send a message that lawbreakers will hear. It is illegal anywhere in California to use illegal fireworks.
Police Chief Nick Obligacion noted between the police and fire departments 20 citations will be issued. In addition 15 citizen complaints submitted with documentation have yet to be reviewed. If they all are enforceable 35 people could end up being slapped with a combined $26,250 in fines
Obligacion said the police received nearly 100 complaints about illegal firworks over the weekend.
Manteca Fire responded to 15 fires over the weekend including eight on the Fourth of July. They were a combination of grass, fence and debris fires.
Firefighters also seized 150 pounds of illegal fireworks with a street value of nearly $10,000.
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