With July Fourth family fireworks in a week, fire officials are urging residents to take extra precautions this year because of extremely dry conditions. Given the critically dry conditions, a group of fire officials from throughout Sacramento County warned this morning that people using illegal fireworks could face fines up to $50,000.
A task force of local and state fire officials said they will be targeting scofflaws and that they have "zero tolerance" for anybody not using Safe and Sane fireworks in designated areas. Not all jurisdictions locally even allow any fireworks, including all of El Dorado County, they said.
Besides a large fine, offenders could face up to a year in jail, officials said.
"It's not going to take much for a firework to get in the grass. It could easily start a fire," said Daniel Berlant, spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
He said the Sacramento region has been much drier than usual and conditions are what Cal Fire typically sees in late August and September.
Michelle Eidam, spokeswoman for the Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District, said this week's slight rains didn't lessen fire danger levels on Independence Day. "We had a very dry winter all along, so a couple days of light rain isn't going to make a huge change."
To prevent fires, she said, residents should be aware of the wind factor when setting off fireworks.
"If it's a windy day and embers travel to your neighbor's roof, that's how fires are started," Eidam said.
Officials said that only "safe and sane" fireworks, bearing the state fire marshal's seal of approval, are legal in certain counties in California.
Berlant said one of Cal Fire's biggest concerns is when people use the fireworks in counties where they are illegal.
Each year Cal Fire confiscates about 50,000 pounds of illegal fireworks, he said. This year, Cal Fire already has confiscated 160,000 pounds.
"We have no tolerance for illegal fireworks in California," Berlant said.
But, even "safe and sane" fireworks can be dangerous if not handled carefully, he said.
He said families should make sure that the area where fireworks are ignited is clear of grass and vegetation and should keep a bucket of water nearby to soak used fireworks – to make sure they are extinguished.
Cities and unincorporated areas where it is legal to set off "safe and sane" fireworks for Independence Day celebrations.
Source: California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
Note: El Dorado County does not permit "safe and sane" fireworks.
Call The Bee's Brittany Torrez, (916) 321-1103.