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Fourth of July festivities can turn deadly. But police are fighting illegal fireworks

How to have a ‘Safe and Sane’ July Fourth — but still have fireworks

Tribune reporter Gabby Ferreira finds out how to stay safe while setting off fireworks from Five Cities Fire Authority Chief Steve Lieberman. They set off an assortment of "Safe and Sane" fireworks for the Fourth of July holiday.
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Tribune reporter Gabby Ferreira finds out how to stay safe while setting off fireworks from Five Cities Fire Authority Chief Steve Lieberman. They set off an assortment of "Safe and Sane" fireworks for the Fourth of July holiday.

Sacramento’s illegal firework task force is back for a second year to keep illegal fireworks off the streets this Fourth of July.

The Firework Mitigation Task Force, formed in 2018, seized 2,333 pounds of illegal fireworks and made several felony and misdemeanor arrests that year, according to a news release from the Sacramento Police Department. They also executed three undercover operations.

The team is a collaboration between the Sacramento Police Department and the Sacramento Fire Department and will be active from June 1 to July 5, the release said.

Last year’s Fourth of July had one of the highest rates of illegal firework usage in the city of Sacramento in the 17 years Sacramento Fire Department spokesman Keith Wade has been on the job, he told the Bee that year. This year, the task force team was expanded from 13 to 17 members, the release said.

Illegal fireworks – usually any firework that shoots into the sky – do not have the seal of the State Fire Marshall on them. There is a “zero-tolerance policy” for illegal fireworks and any citizen found to be in possession of them will receive a citation from officers, according to the release.

The team is proactively investigating illegal fireworks, said Officer Marcus Basquez, spokesman for the Sacramento Police Department.

They are also offering amnesty for individuals that voluntarily turn in illegal fireworks, “no questions asked,” Basquez said. Those who wish to surrender their fireworks can email fireworks@pd.cityofsacramento.org or call 916-264-5471.

Legal, or “safe and sane” fireworks, can be purchased from licensed stands from noon June 28 to 10 p.m. July 4. However, police still advise residents to be careful with them.

“We obviously want people to enjoy their Fourth of July, but even safe and sane fireworks if handled improperly can still be dangerous,” Basquez said.

Cal Fire law enforcement officers have also been working to combat illegal fireworks. Through a multi-agency fireworks seizure operation in Truckee, 15,365 pounds of illegal fireworks were confiscated, according to a news release from the Cal Fire Nevada-Yuba-Placer unit.

Fifty-eight citations were issued for misdemeanor possession and transportation of illegal fireworks and 31 people were arrested for felony possession and transportation of illegal fireworks, the release said.

According to a U.S Consumer Product Safety Commission annual fireworks report, there were 5,600 firework-related injuries between June 22, 2018 and July 22, 2018. Nearly half of firework-related injuries were caused by fireworks that are illegal in California, such as rockets, firecrackers, Roman candles and reloadable shells.

To report the use of illegal fireworks in the city of Sacramento, send an email to fireworks@pd.cityofsacramento.org with a description of the subject, address, and license plate info (if applicable) as well as your contact information or call 916-264-5471. If you encounter explosive devices such as M-80s or M-100s, call 911.

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Jaimie Ding, from Scripps College, is a local news reporter for The Sacramento Bee with an interest in politics and international relations. She grew up in Vancouver, Washington.

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