Those setting off illegal fireworks this Fourth of July could be paying hundreds more than they bargained for, after the Turlock City Council voted on Tuesday to adopt a $500 penalty for making or using dangerous fireworks within the City limits.
Before Tuesday’s vote, the Turlock Municipal Code set forth regulations for fireworks displays, sales, storage, use and handling of fireworks and temporary fireworks stands. The code did not, however, prohibit possession of dangerous fireworks or include penalties for their use.
According to Turlock Fire Marshal Mark Gomez, the amount of dangerous and illegal fireworks in Turlock has increased over the past few years resulting in more fires. Gomez called a typical Fourth of July holiday in Turlock as the “Wild West” in regards to illegal fireworks calls.
This is another tool in our toolbox in regards to how we enforce.Interim City Attorney Jose Sanchez
The new code not only has a violation for the person actually doing the fireworks, but it also extends the definition of responsible party to potential property owners.
“This is another tool in our toolbox in regards to how we enforce,” said Interim City Attorney Jose Sanchez about the new penalty.
In the past, if a police officer saw an illegal firework being used the officer could arrest the violator with a misdemeanor charge. The changes in the Municipal Code allow for firefighters, along with police officers, to address an incident of illegal or dangerous fireworks. Both fire and police personnel can give a fireworks code violator the new $500 administrative citation.
It also allows for citing those possessing the dangerous and illegal fireworks.
“It’s very difficult to identify where these incidents are occurring… we get reports or we hear a boom. A misdemeanor charge of the (California) Health and Safety Code requires that it’s observed in the presence of law enforcement or you have a viable witness who is willing to place that person under private person’s arrest,” said Turlock Police Chief Nino Amirfar.
Under the new Code, if a police officer hears a boom and finds smoke, burned grass and remnants of a dangerous firework, they can give a citation.
Amirfar said that the Health and Safety Code also sets forth when a fireworks violation would be considered a felony charge in regards to the amount of gun powder used.
The definition of dangerous and illegal fireworks is defined in the Health and Safety Code’s section 12505, and includes fireworks that contain arsenates, chlorates, magnesium; firecrackers, skyrockets, Roman candles; sparklers more than 10 inches in length or one-fourth of one inch in diameter; torpedoes; and make-your-own fireworks kits, among others.
All fireworks that have the Safe and Sane seal by the State Fire Marshal are legal to use in the City of Turlock.