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'Safe & sane' firework booths open; police inundated with calls about illegal fireworks

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

Firework booths are now open, selling what they call “safe and sane” fireworks for the Fourth of July Holiday, as police throughout the Central Coast are already busy taking calls on illegal fireworks sounding off at night. 

Lighting up the night sky when the sun goes down on the Fourth of July is an American tradition. But Five Cities Fire Chief Steve Lieberman is reminding people, if it goes up or blows up, it's illegal to set off in SLO County. 

“The mortars that fly up in the air and burst, firecrackers, M80’s," Lieberman said, "all of those are illegal fireworks and are subject to misdemeanor fines by law enforcement.”

Those fines aren’t cheap, and can cost up to $2,000. In Grover Beach, officers have already responded to more than 90 calls in the last few weeks about seeing or hearing illegal fireworks go off at night.

Police Chief John Peters said every year around this time, operators are inundated with calls regarding fireworks.

“We do want them to call the regular business line for the dispatch center and not 9-1-1," Peters said. "The discharge of a firework, although intrusive, is not an emergency situation and we don’t want to tie up the 9-1-1 line for emergencies.”

Chief Peters said he’s deploying his officers strategically around areas where calls have been coming in.

“We do have both unmarked and marked vehicles with officers in them driving around in these known trouble spots and they are keeping their eyes peeled," Peters said. "If we do catch somebody discharging, it is going to be a zero tolerance policy that we have and you will be issued a citation.”

Fire Chief Lieberman said besides the disturbance these illegal fireworks make, it’s also a bad year to light a spark with the area in severe drought. 

“Sadly, last year was the worst fire season in California history," Lieberman said. " Unfortunately, everything that is going on weather wise and field moisture wise is showing this year is going to be on par with last year.”

"Safe and sane" fireworks are allowed in Santa Maria, Lompoc, San Miguel, Guadalupe, Arroyo Grande, Grover Beach, Oceano and Templeton. 

Pireworks of any kind are illegal in the City of Santa Barbara and the City of San Luis Obispo. 

Angel Russell is a former KCBX News reporter who started her career in journalism as a reporter and producer for KREX on Colorado's Western Slope; she later moved to the Central Coast to work for KSBY as weekend anchor and weekday reporter. She holds a BA in journalism from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, and playing guitar and piano.
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