(City of Merced press release)
This year the City of Merced is continuing its Celebrate Safe campaign to cut down on the use of illegal fireworks. The goal is to reduce fires, injuries, noise, lost pets and neighborhood disruptions.
Use a skyrocket or a barrel bomb and it could cost you up to $2,000. Keep using illegal fireworks or sell them and it could land you in court.
The City is enforcing laws against any fireworks not labelled “safe and sane” by the California State Fire Marshall, said Fire Chief Billy Alcorn. If it explodes or leaves the ground or has been modified, it’s not safe and sane.
Extra officers will be on patrol over the Fourth of July holidays to enforce fireworks violations, said Police Chief Chris Goodwin. There also is a special phone number and email for people to report illegal fireworks.
The campaign started in 2018 based on City Council Member Kevin Blake who said Merced looked like a “battle zone with the sky lit up with skyrockets and the air filled with explosions.”
He said he had received calls from residents who had to medicate their pets because they were traumatized due to the constant loud noises over the holidays.
People can turn in their illegal (or even legal) fireworks at any Fire Station in the City at any time, with no questions asked. This is to encourage people to get rid of the unsafe fireworks and avoid the hazards associated with them. Fire personnel will make sure they are disposed of safely by the State Fire Marshal.
“We want people to have fun this Fourth of July, but we don’t want them ruining the fun for their neighbors,” said Merced Mayor Mike Murphy. “Illegal fireworks are dangerous, and threaten the safety of the people who set them off, and also the neighbors surrounding them.
“Stopping illegal fireworks isn’t going to happen in a year,” Murphy said, “But over time we expect to reduce the number of people using illegal fireworks through education and enforcement.”
HOW TO REPORT ILLEGAL FIREWORKS
The number 209-388-SAFE became active June 4, and people are encouraged to report anyone they see or know who is buying, selling or distributing illegal fireworks. Someone will answer the line as available, but all messages will be followed up on.
Residents can report illegal fireworks displays that are going on before the holidays by calling 911.
During July 3 and 4 people are being asked to call 209-388-SAFE (7233) to report illegal fireworks displays, not 911 in order to keep the emergency dispatchers free for urgent calls.
On July 3 and 4 there will be a call center opened from 7 p.m. to 10 a.m. and operators will be answering the phones and sending reports of illegal fireworks directly to dispatchers. The information will be forwarded to teams in the field.
Part of the problem with illegal fireworks is that authorities usually receive multiple calls for any one offender. One neighbor setting off numerous skyrockets can swamp the 911 dispatchers with many calls on the same incident. The 209-388-SAFE number relieves pressure on the emergency dispatchers but still allows the illegal fireworks to get reported and acted upon.
In addition, people can report illegal fireworks by sending an email to [email protected]. Those emails will also get forwarded to authorities.
A third option is to report illegal fireworks using the Merced Connect app. The Merced Connect app is free and available at the Apple Store and Google Play. In addition to allowing you to report illegal fireworks, residents can obtain other information about City government.
- “Safe and sane” fireworks with the State Fire Marshal seal of approval can only be used from noon June 28 through noon July 6.
- The non-safe and sane fireworks are illegal year-round, 24-7.
- If fireworks can leave the ground or go up in the air they are illegal. Illegal fireworks include cherry bombs, bottle rockets, mortars, aerial shells, M-80s and firecrackers.
- Illegal fireworks lack of the seal of approval from the California State Fire Marshal.
During the Fourth of July holiday period special teams of police officers and firefighters will be patrolling the City streets tracking down fireworks violators. Once found, the fireworks will be confiscated and the owners will be cited. Repeat offenders could end up in court.
Anyone caught possessing, using or selling dangerous or illegal fireworks is subject to fines ranging from $1,000 to $2,000 as well as criminal prosecution.