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modified fireworks

It’s the season for fireworks.

And while Lathrop officials have no problem with residents enjoying the safe and sane use of fireworks – the sale of which help generate money for community non-profits – they stress the two words for which the firework sales were named.

“They’re called safe and sane fireworks, and that’s how we want people to use them – don’t put them on ladders or throw them up in the air or modify them in any way,” said Lathrop Manteca Police Chief Gene Neely. “They aren’t made to be used in those ways, and we want people to take the proper precautions to ensure their safety.

“And don’t use illegal fireworks – they’re dangerous.”

The use of illegal fireworks – those that shoot into the air or explode on the ground – has been an ongoing issue for not just Lathrop but San Joaquin County as a whole. To combat the troubling trend – which kept people like Neely up at night during the drought because of the tinder-dry conditions – the San Joaquin County District Attorney has mobilized a task force of every police and fire agency in the county to step up enforcement both on the street and in the courtroom.

But Lathrop has always taken a hardline approach to eradicating the dangerous use of illegal fireworks.

Before San Joaquin County got on board with stepping up enforcement, the City of Lathrop tightened its own ordinances to allow for the City Attorney to prosecute the cases – there was concern that fireworks cases wouldn’t a priority if forwarded on to the DA for consideration – and approved a “no host” ordinance that allowed for police officers or firefighters to issue tickets not only to the people who are caught using illegal fireworks, but the property owners where officials observe their use as well.

It is similar to measures in place in Manteca and Ripon as well.

And the fears of officials about what can happen when fireworks are used improperly aren’t unfounded.

In the last several years Lathrop has had small grass fires that were attributed to illegal fireworks, and at least one residential structure fire that started when an aerial firework landed on a roof. There have also been injuries when people modify safe and sane fireworks to explode, which has motivated people like Neely to speak out against the unsafe modifications and the use of fireworks that leave the ground.

Over the course of the coming days, the Lathrop Manteca Fire District will have some of their fire prevention officers to partner up with Lathrop Police Services to enforce the city’s existing fireworks ordinances, a process that will continue through the Fourth of July holiday when fireworks usage is typically at its peak. Officers and fire personnel will also keep an eye out this weekend – while the first several days of fireworks sales are typically slow, the fact that they’re going on sale on a Friday makes Neely believe that this weekend will be a busy time as well.

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.