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1.5 tons of illegal fireworks seized in San Joaquin County
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The conditions were perfect on the night of the Fourth of July for a massive fire, but it appears that the City of Lathrop and the surrounding area lucked out this year.

According to Lathrop Manteca Fire District Division Chief Larry Madoski, the warm temperatures, low humidity, and stiff breeze on Sunday night left firefighters vigilant for structure fires and fast-moving grass fires caused by the plethora of illegal fireworks erupting over Lathrop’s skies.

Based on what officials were seeing in the skies on Saturday night the district brought in additional personnel for Sunday night.

The amount of illegal fireworks visible in the skies over the weekend came after local law enforcement throughout the county removed more than 1.5 tons of illegal fireworks from circulation in advance of the holiday weekend.

While crews only dealt with small fires, they did issue more than a dozen citations for people using illegal fireworks.

“The conditions were definitely right for a disaster on Sunday,” Madoski said. “But I think that being out and being visible in the public’s eye helped – we had people that were active on social media talking about us being out there enforcing the illegal fireworks laws and that’s a good thing that helps our cause.

“The conditions were right for a disaster, but it looks we avoided them this year.”

According to Madoski that were no structure fires to illegal fireworks, and no major injuries reported – which is a far cry from what has happened in previous years.

While Lathrop has tried to get a handle on the aerial and explosive fireworks for years – going so far as to designating the City Attorney as the prosecutor for the tickets that were issued rather than relying on the District Attorney’s Office – and has stepped up the penalties for those that are caught using them, first responders are running up against the economics that go along with those dangerous fireworks.

According to Madoski, the big issue is that there’s an entire underground economy linked to illegal fireworks. Police have made several high-profile busts this year of U-Haul trucks being used to carry large quantities of illegal fireworks across the border and have recovered massive amounts of cash. That makes enforcing the existing laws difficult when the market is flooded with them.

And those that have been caught using illegal fireworks aren’t always cooperative with the firefighters and police officers who respond to issue them tickets.

Several years ago, former Lathrop Manteca Fire Chief Gene Neely was involved in an incident at a home where people began getting irate when he responded and began throwing lit fireworks at his vehicle – prompting a stressed call with dispatchers as police responded to the scene.


To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.