As thundering fireworks shows have been canceled throughout the Central Coast due to the pandemic, police are warning people not to get tempted into lighting their own shows using illegal fireworks.
Santa Maria police are receiving numerous calls with complaints about fireworks going off in neighborhoods.
“We have a fireworks hotline,” said Santa Maria police sergeant Eligio Lara, “It can be an average of 10 to 40 calls every morning.”
Lara said Santa Maria PD has already issued 15 citations for illegal fireworks in the past several days. Last year the department issued 15 total, so he thinks they may be seeing an uptick. For people caught, it’s not a cheap citation.
“There are going to be no breaks,” Lara said. “If we catch you in possession of illegal fireworks, lighting one, selling them, you will be cited and it’s $1,000.”
With increased fire danger this year, Central Coast fire agencies are getting the message out that they will be cracking down on people who misuse fireworks.
“In California we have zero tolerance for the use and sale of illegal fireworks,” said Thom Porter, CalFire director, in one release. “Any person who causes a fire can be held liable for the costs of its suppression and associated property damage. Often these costs are in the hundreds of thousands and sometimes millions of dollars.”
Santa Maria and Guadalupe also have new laws called social-host ordinances, allowing property owners to get fined as well.
Lara said it’s often social media and a little help from neighbors who see the fireworks that get people busted.
“All of the time, we might get possession of a video showing this person lighting the firework,” Lara said, “that gives us enough to conduct an investigation.”
Santa Barbara County has a total ban on all fireworks, except in Santa Maria, Lompoc and Guadalupe, where you can only buy and use what are called “safe and sane” fireworks.
Lara said safe and sane fireworks are the ones that stay on the ground.
“The ones that go up in the air and blow up, anytime you have fireworks like that, right there it tells you it’s illegal,” Lara said.
In San Luis Obispo County, safe and sane fireworks are only allowed in Arroyo Grande, Grover Beach, Templeton, San Miguel and Oceano.
But in Monterey county, you can use safe and sane fireworks in most of the Salinas Valley—like Salinas, Greenfield and King City.