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Grover Beach, Santa Maria will use drones to monitor for illegal fireworks on July 4

drones monitor fireworks
City of Santa Maria
A drone captures fireworks set off at night.

This year will be the first time some Central Coast cities are using drone technology to monitor illegal fireworks on the Fourth of July.

Most cities have some regulations to enforce safe and legal fireworks. Still, every year, many areas see an increased use of illegal fireworks.

“About ten years ago, we were averaging about 20 calls on the Fourth of July holiday period. We’re now averaging about 47 calls during that same holiday period,” said Grover Beach Chief of Police John Peters.

Chief Peters said drones will help curb the problem.

“The police department is going to monitor the known problem locations that we have identified through years past of calls for service,” said Chief Peters.

safe and sane.jpeg
Angel Russell
'Safe & sane' fireworks are legal and will always bear the State Fire Marshal's seal

Chief Peters said the drones will be accompanied by officers in unmarked vehicles who will then respond to anything the drones detect.

The City of Santa Maria is also implementing similar drone technology this Independence Day. City Manager Mark van de Kamp said this extra enforcement is critical to reduce trauma for animals and people with PTSD.

He said it’s also to help reduce fire risk.

“We’re in a drought and the use of fireworks is obviously a big fire risk," Van de Kamp said. "Even in an urban area like Santa Maria, we have a lot of dry roofs. There’s a lot of vegetation.”

Van de Kamp and Chief Peters both acknowledged the privacy concerns surrounding drones, but said the technology won’t be used for anything other than looking for illegal fireworks during the Fourth of July holiday.

“It will not be in immediate proximity to anyone’s home or window. Also this is going to be flying around the entire community and will not be on a fixed point looking at one property per se,” said Van de Kamp.

Grover Beach allows what they call “safe and sane” firework use on July 4 from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Santa Maria allows them from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Rachel Showalter first joined KCBX as an intern from Cal Poly in 2017. During her time in college, she anchored and reported for Mustang News at Cal Poly's radio station, KCPR. After graduating, she took her first job as a Producer at KSBY-TV. She returned to the KCBX team in October 2020, reporting daily for KCBX News until she moved to the Pacific Northwest in July of 2022. Rachel spends her off-days climbing rocks, cooking artichokes and fighting crosswords with friends.
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