Crime - Sacto 911

‘One of the worst nights I've seen.’ Illegal fireworks keep task force, fire crews busy

Illegal fireworks set house on fire

Illegal fireworks used on July 4th celebration caused a house fire on Lerner Way in Sacramento.
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Illegal fireworks used on July 4th celebration caused a house fire on Lerner Way in Sacramento.

In the days leading up to the Fourth of July, the newly-formed Sacramento Fireworks Mitigation Task Force seized 2,333 pounds of illegal fireworks. Last year, the Sacramento Police Department seized less than 150 pounds of illegal fireworks, according to Sgt. Vance Chandler of the Sacramento Police Department.

The task force operated from May 26 through Thursday, and was made up of six Sacramento Police officers, two Sacramento City firefighters, three Sacramento County Sheriff's deputies and two agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Their enforcement efforts also included making 13 misdemeanor arrests and 3 felony arrests related to illegal firework usage and embarking on three undercover operations.

According to the Sacramento Police Department, the task force's goal was to provide public safety by reducing the number of illegal fireworks in the community.

The task force comes at a timely moment: According to Keith Wade, spokesperson for the Sacramento Fire Department, in the 17 years he's worked with the department, this Fourth of July had one of the highest rates of illegal firework usage in the city of Sacramento he's witnessed. And compared to last year, this year the Sacramento Police Department fielded 11.5 percent more calls relating to fireworks.

On Wednesday night, Wade watched firemen respond to a roof fire of a house on Lerner Way caused by an illegal aerial firework. And Wade said as he stood there, he could see more illegal fireworks being set off nearby, exploding in the sky.

"It's my opinion that that was one of the worst nights I've seen," Wade said.

According to Wade, there were two structure fires on back to back days in Sacramento that have been confirmed as being caused by illegal fireworks. Dozens of residential and grass fires were also reported in Elk Grove and parts of Sacramento County, officials from neighboring agencies said Thursday.

Wade, who has worked as a paramedic and dealt with burn and blast injuries, said he doesn't understand why people choose to use illegal fireworks.

"It's unfortunate and it's irresponsible and I think as a community we can do better," Wade said. "Next year, I hope that people can kind of wake up to it."

The Bee's Julia Sclafani contributed to this report.

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