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DA’s message clear: Illegal fireworks use will be prosecuted
illegal fireworks LT
Manteca Police officer David Bright loads part of nearly a ton of illegal fireworks seized in June 2014 in the citys Powers Tract neighborhood. - photo by Bulletin file photo

Fourth of July might still be weeks away, but the San Joaquin County District Attorney’s Office wants the public to know that illegal fireworks use is already on its radar.

Over the weekend the agency in charge of prosecuting crimes in the county was in attendance at the Market on Maple event in Downtown Manteca and was handing out signs for homeowners that reside in county pockets to display reminding people that all fireworks are illegal in unincorporated areas of the county.

As the prevalence of illegal fireworks has increased over the years, so has District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar’s approach to eradicating the threat that illegal or improperly used fireworks present to the public – from grass fires that can destroy homes to explosions that can injure the users or even innocent people that happen to be nearby.

The booth that the agency manned included several pamphlets outlining the dangers that illegal aerial fireworks – those that leave the ground and explode in the sky, often expanding the fallout zone of the fireworks exponentially – pose to the general public. With California’s drought expected to dry up reservoirs in Northern California this summer – Mountain House recently had to reach an agreement with the South San Joaquin Irrigation District to provide surface water in the event that its water supply dries up – the threat of even a simple grass fire can have dire consequences.

While safe and sane fireworks – those that have the seal of the State Fire Marshal stamped onto them – were at one time illegal in the entirety of San Joaquin County, most municipalities have since adopted ordinances that allow the sale and use of them in the week leading up to the Fourth of July. Many non-profit agencies have come to rely on the money that can be raised by working fireworks booths under contract with the two major distributors – TNT and Phantom Fireworks – and when used properly and safely they often pose little risk to the general public.

But even those safe and sane fireworks can be dangerous depending on how or where they are being used. The existence of all-day barbecues and cookouts and the ongoing consumption of alcoholic beverages can lead to less-than-stellar choices once the sun goes down – whether that means altering safe and sane fireworks to make them explode, throwing them up in the air to get more of an effect, or lighting them in areas without a spark buffer zone.

Many pet owners in the area have already begun talking on social media about getting anxiety medications from their veterinarians in advance of the holiday, and some have made recommendations for non-medicinal interventions like ThunderShirts – tight-fitting wraps that help reduce the anxiety of canines – and pheromone diffusers that can be worn as collars or distributed via spray to help calm anxious dogs.

Verber Salazar, who is currently trailing challenger Ron Freitas in the race for district attorney, has taken a hands-on approach to eradicating the use of illegal fireworks in recent years with her office working closely with law enforcement agencies and fire departments to send a message that such activities will not be tolerated in San Joaquin County.

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544