For years those that were issued citations for possessing or using illegal fireworks in Ripon got off light when the San Joaquin County District Attorney’s office failed to prosecute the cases.
But the five people that were issued citations this year by Ripon police officers – four on July Fourth and one the day before – aren’t going to be so lucky.
Thanks to a new city ordinance that allows the City Attorney’s office to prosecute the cases and seek the fines levied, all five of those who were caught won’t be quite so lucky. This is the first year the city is administering the new policy.
And while the policy might not have had the immediate effect in quelling the amount of aerial fireworks that were fired off in the run-up to the Fourth of July holiday, Ripon Police Lt. Steve Merchant thinks that it’s the first step towards eradicating the nuisance that can actually be a major public safety concern.
While the cause hasn’t officially been determined, Ripon public safety officials responded to a small grass fire on Tuesday morning that the property owners believes may have been caused by a stray aerial firework falling to the ground. According to Merchant, the property owner said they smelled something smoldering the night before only to awake and find a small dry grassy area ripe with flames – right up against a building. The fire was extinguished without any major damage, and the cause is currently being looked into.
“One of the citations that was issued was actually for $500 because the person was caught in possession and seen lighting them off, but we won’t know how that’s going to play out until the City Attorney’s office weighs in on it,” Merchant said. “They are illegal in California, and they’re dangerous because pieces that explode can fall down into dry grassy areas and onto rooftops and they’re hot enough to catch something on fire – which is what we’re trying to prevent.
“Looking at the number of calls we had there appear to be less than last year, and we’re hoping this ordinance will lead to that number continuing to fall.”
A house fire in Lathrop is also being investigated by the Lathrop Manteca Fire District after it caught fire early Tuesday morning. It hasn’t yet been determined that illegal fireworks are to blame, but some neighbors suspect it may be the cause.