The Fourth of July falls on a Saturday this year.
And that is a big concern for Manteca fire and police.
That’s because whenever Independence Day falls on a Friday or Saturday the number of illegal fireworks launched in Manteca goes off the chart. And with more people staying home this year due the COVID-19 pandemic officials believe it will be even worse.
Already with 16 days left until the Fourth of July illegal fireworks have been shot off almost nightly in Manteca for the past two weeks.
Manteca is gearing up to combat illegal fireworks the week prior to the Fourth of July by dispatching enforcement teams that will roam the city searching for property where illegal fireworks are being fired from.
Those who own homes from where illegal fireworks are shot there is a good chance they will get burned with a $1,000 fine.
Last year 25 homeowners or renters of homes were fined $1,000 each.
Manteca in the last four years has nailed 71 people for illegal fireworks.
Police and fire use unmarked vehicles to catch culprits. They will also be armed with maps pinpointing addresses that they were unable to cite last year given they couldn’t reach locations in time after dispatch received complaints.
They also have locations of 200 plus other addresses that were submitted by residents last year using the Nail ‘Em app. While the information submitted by the apps could lead to prosecution if the sender is willing to testify in court, most opt not to do so. That said the information will allow officers this year to zero in on hot spots.
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 prosecution 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.
Also officers in unmarked vehicles simply need to make a GPS stampeded video recording and move on allowing them to follow up with mailed citations.
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.
The goal is to make the financial hit hard enough to force people to drastically cut down on illegal fireworks.
Illegal fireworks do more than just create jarring noises that often terrify pets, trigger issues for those that have fought in war zones, and disturb the sleep and quiet of many. They can start fires as they get airborne with embers that often fall on roofs, fences, and dry vegetation.
Every year there are increased fire calls with at least one significant house fire. They have also been years where teens have suffered serious injuries from illegal fireworks.
Fire Chief Kyle Shipherd said the biggest house fire last Fourth of July was caused by the failure to properly dispose of legal safe and sane fireworks. Instead of putting the spent fireworks in a bucket of water overnight first before disposing of them, the homeowner placed them directly into a garbage cart. The cart was against a fence. When it caught on fire it spread to the fence and jumped to the house by the time it was detected. Due to winds firefighters had to protect two other homes from catching on fire while battling the primary fire.
Legal fireworks violate
sound ordinance from
10 p.m. to 8 a.m.
The city ordinance regarding when Safe and Sane fireworks — those that are legal — can be used has 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. Lighting Safe and Sane Fireworks at 3 p.m. on July 1, as an example, would be legal.
But what wouldn’t be legal is discharging them between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m. because the city also has a noise ordinance that limits decibel levels at that time.
In a typical year officers seize more than 300 pounds of illegal fireworks. Several years ago they seized 2,000 pounds with most coming from a home in Powers Tract near Manteca High where the suspect had stored them in his teen son’s bedroom with the intent to resell them.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email email@example.com