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Tech helps make lawbreakers pay $1,000
nail em

Getting tired of people shooting off illegal fireworks that threaten property, drive pets crazy, and shatter what passes as relative peace and quiet as the Fourth of July approaches?

Well, there’s an app for that.

By downloading the “Nail ‘em” app for Android or Apple phones and using it — the app records the GPS location of illegal fireworks and even allows you to take a photo — and sending it to the fire marshal, you can significantly increase the chances of the perpetrators being shell shocked with a $1,000 fine.

This past weekend alone, Manteca law enforcement has been able to compile the location of no less than 150 spots where illegal fireworks are being discharged thanks to the Nail ‘Em app.

That data provided by citizens as well as other information received going forward through the app or calls to the non-emergency Manteca Police line that provide a location where illegal fireworks being discharged are being used to map out where a number of police and fire in unmarked and marked vehicles will stakeout this week.

Under a city law put in place four years ago and upheld by the courts, all officers simply need to make is a GPS stamped video recording and move on allowing them to follow up with mailed citations. They do not have to make contact with either a homeowner or the person renting the property where illegal fireworks are launched.

The city’s host ordinance requires only that the property where fireworks are launched from be identified and not the person actually setting off the fireworks. Not only is that significantly easier to verify, but because it is through the administrative process and not the court system the citations are resolved fairly quickly with the city prevailing in the vast majority of cases.

Almost every citation that has been issued in the past four years has resulted in the person in control of the property where they were launched from, whether it was a homeowner or a renter, being successfully slapped with a $750 fine plus being assessed with all the costs the city incurred citing and prosecuting the case bringing the total tab to $1,000 per offense.

Based on activity so far, Manteca Fire Chief Kyle Shipherd expects citations this year will easily exceed 25 that were issued last year that resulted in the homeowners or renters involved each having to pay $1,000. Manteca in the last four years has nailed 71 people for illegal fireworks.

Those reporting the illegal fireworks often get frustrated that they call and the illegal fireworks keep going off.

There are two things to keep in mind. After years of playing cat and mouse, law enforcement realized they could rarely respond in time or let alone catch the actual person shooting them off in the act. That is why city leaders switched to the host ordinance that has seen a six-fold increase in people being cited.

The hope is enough citations are issued that people using illegally fireworks will get the message.

Based on past citations costing $1,000 each, Shipherd can point to areas in Manteca that once were not spots for illegal fireworks no longer having them as a problem. That means the more help the city has at pinpointing locations this year the better chance your neighborhood could be quieter next year.

Manteca has already recorded one grass fire caused by illegal fireworks.

“It is a national problem,” Shipherd said of the uptick in the launching of illegal fireworks.

He noted a number of cities have already had house fires caused by illegal fireworks.

Illegal fireworks in the Oakland Hills triggered a three-alarm fire where 2.5 acres burned. The Oakland Hills is where the Oct. 19-20, 1991 firestorm burned 1,528 acres, killed 25 people, plus destroyed 2,843 single family homes and 437 apartment units caused $1.5 billion in losses in 1991 dollars.

All it takes is for wind to combine with a fire with dry conditions and a fire started in brush can destroy 33 homes even in the middle of the Central Valley. That is exactly what happened in June 2008 in Stockton along Interstate 5 near March Lane.

And while Shipherd said this year’s weed abatement effort has gone well, all it takes is fireworks starting a fire with the right conditions for something similar to happen in Manteca.

Illegal fireworks are anything which explodes (such as firecrackers, cherry bombs, M-80s, M100s, etc.) or anything which leaves the ground (bottle rockets, roman candles, mortars, etc.). These types of fireworks are not "Safe and Sane" compliant and are illegal to possess and/or use. Modifying a "Safe and Sane" firework to explode or leave the ground would also make it illegal.

Due to the extremely high volume of fireworks calls the police department receives each year, they ask for your assistance in using the app whenever possible instead of calling the police department. In the event you don't have the app or prefer to call, you may do so by calling the Manteca Police Department directly at 209-456-8100 (press 1).

You are asked not to call 911 for fireworks unless there is an immediate threat to life or property such as a fire, injury, or other hazard. 

The city ordinance regarding when Safe and Sane fireworks — those that are legal — can be used have to comply with state law if they are allowed in a city. That means legal fireworks can be used technically 24 hours over the seven days fireworks sales take place in Manteca from noon on Sunday, June 28, to midnight on July 4.


To contact Dennis Wyatt, email