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Widespread use of illegal fireworks in Manteca
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It isn’t what one would call a bombshell: The official recap of Fourth of July events in Manteca being presented to the City Council Tuesday tags the use of illegal fireworks as “widespread.”
Fire Marshal Lantz Rey is making his report when the council meets three hours earlier than usual at 4 p.m. Tuesday at the Civic Center, 1001 W. Center St., due to National Night Out parties taking place later in the evening.
Rey indicated both the fire and police departments had unmarked fireworks patrols from June 29 to July 14. There were 21 citations issued that carry a combined total of at least $15,750 in fines plus the potential for additional penalties such as the city recovering its costs.
Of those citations, 16 were issued using the city’s new administrative citation process. Three were issued citations under the Health and Safety Code. Two administrative citations were also issued through the third party process involving citizens documenting illegal firework use and then expressing a willingness to testify against those cited.
Manteca Police dispatch received 90 calls regarding illegal fireworks.
The fire department responded to nine fire calls on the Fourth of July of which eight were attributed to fireworks. The biggest was a large grass fire along Airport Way that required three engines that had to remain on scene for an extended period of time. While firefighters were battling that blaze, two other fireworks-related first broke out requiring mutual aid from Lathrop Manteca Fire. Also on July 4, Manteca responded to a mutual aid call in Lathrop where a home was severely damaged by a fire started by fireworks. The calls were in addition to medical emergencies and public assist calls.
Mayor Steve DeBrum in the days after the Fourth was dismayed that despite stepped up enforcement efforts illegal fireworks use seemed to be at least as bad as and possibly worse than in 2015.
The mayor said he wants the possible use of drones to be explored for use next Fourth of July weekend to patrol the skies over Manteca to document illegal fireworks.
He also said he would back efforts to consider humping the first offense fine to $1,000 — the maximum allowed under law. Currently the City of Manteca has $750 fines for the first offense and $1,000 for each subsequent offense under the social host law that went into effect this year.
DeBrum — who made it clear he hasn’t decided on any specific course of action besides being committed to step up enforcement against illegal fireworks — stressed he wants to see every viable option vetted.
The use of drones in Manteca came up as a possibility  after Lathrop Manteca Fire Department said they would pursue that technology after illegal fireworks burned a home on the Fourth of July.
DeBrum earlier this month also said he’d like to explore adding additional officers via overtime dedicated to enforcing the illegal fireworks ordinance over the Fourth of July holidays perhaps using unmarked vehicles.
DeBrum has repeatedly stressed that “Safe and Sane fireworks users aren’t the problem.”