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Cal Fire has seized more than $23.4 million in illegal fireworks. Where did they come from?

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.

Cal Fire has seized more than $23.4 million worth of illegal fireworks since the start of this year through targeted operations around the state, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said in a news release Wednesday.

The Office of the State Fire Marshal and Cal Fire have conducted operations at ports of entry into California, seizing more than 140,000 pounds of illegal fireworks before they enter the state, the news release said. The largest seizure yielded more than 4,600 pounds of fireworks, according to the news release.

“These interdictions will continue to curb the destructive fires started by illegal fireworks, knowingly sold by vendors in Nevada to California,” Mike Richwine, acting state fire marshal, said in the news release. “With 36 arrests and 514 citations so far, those numbers could climb in the coming days.”

Fireworks that are not classified as “safe and sane” – which are illegal in California – can be purchased in some areas of Nevada such as Nye County, which borders California, and the Moapa Indian Reservation northeast of Las Vegas. The majority of illegal fireworks come from Nevada, according to Cal Fire spokesperson Michael Mohler.

Two out of five fires on the Fourth of July are caused by fireworks, more than any other cause of fires, Cal Fire said. The incidents are related to illegal fireworks as well as mishandled legal fireworks.

Cal Fire worked with local sheriff’s departments in Nevada County, Sierra County and Placer County as well as federal and state agencies in conducting their operations.

“The devastating effects of wildfires caused from dangerous and illegal fireworks cannot be underestimated,” Anna Tyner, deputy district attorney for Nevada County said in the news release.

Local law enforcement have also been combating illegal fireworks ahead of the holiday this week. The Firework Mitigation Task Force, a collaboration between the Sacramento Police Department and the Sacramento Fire Department, seized 2,333 pounds of illegal fireworks and made several felony and misdemeanor arrests last year, according to a news release from the Sacramento Police Department.

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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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