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Officials: Stay safe and sane this Independence Day
fireworks booth
Stanislaus State's Maximiliano Valencia, David Adamzadeh and Eric Perez help open and work the TNT fireworks booth in front of Walmart on Fulkerth Friday to help fundraise for Theta Chi (CANDY PADILLA/The Journal).

Turlockers planning on celebrating the Fourth of July with the bright lights and startling sounds of fireworks are being advised to make sure what they light in their driveways are legal in Turlock.

The only fireworks that are legal in Turlock are those approved by the State Fire Marshal, which carry the Safe and Sane logo. Piccolo Pete’s and/or Whistling Pete’s are illegal in Turlock, as are any fireworks that have been modified or altered. This includes fireworks which fly into the air or explode.

In 2018, the Turlock City Council increased the penalties for setting off illegal fireworks in the city.

The administrative penalty for making, using or possessing illegal or dangerous fireworks in Turlock is now $500, with repeat offenders being hit with a $1,000 fine for each additional violation.

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.

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.

In the past, if a police officer saw an illegal firework being used the officer could arrest the violator with a misdemeanor charge. 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.

The changes in the Municipal Code also 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.

According to the National Fire Protection Association fireworks start an average of 18,500 fires per year, including 1,300 structure fires, 300 vehicle fires, and 16,900 outside and other fires. These fires caused an average of three deaths, 40 civilian injuries, and an average of $43 million in direct property damage.

In 2015, U.S. hospital emergency rooms treated an estimated 11,900 people for fireworks related injuries; 51 percent of those injuries were to the extremities and 41 percent were to the head. Children younger than 15 years of age accounted for one-quarter (26 percent) of the estimated 2015 injuries.

The NFPA recommends people celebrate the Fourth of July by watching public firework shows, but for those that plan on setting off their own, the Turlock Fire Department advises to take the following precautions:

·         Fireworks should always be used with extreme caution and should only be handled by adults.

·          Before using any fireworks, read and follow all warnings and instructions printed on the label.

·         Fireworks are only to be lit outdoors, in a clear area away from structures (houses, buildings) and flammable materials (gasoline cans, lighter fluid, etc.)

·         Keep a bucket of water nearby for emergencies and for dousing fireworks that do not ignite.

·         Do not try to re-light or handle malfunctioning fireworks.  Soak them with water and throw them away.

·         Be sure other people are out of range before lighting fireworks. 

·         Never ignite fireworks in a container, especially glass or metal containers.

·         Store fireworks in a dry and cool place.  Check instructions for special storage directions.

·         Never point or throw fireworks at another person.