By Kathy Chouteau
As the Fourth of July holiday fast approaches amid dry drought conditions, Contra Costa County Fire Protection District (Con Fire) has joined East Contra Costa Fire Protection District and law enforcement agencies countywide in cautioning residents about the extreme dangers of fireworks in high fire danger settings—and offered a reminder of the county ordinance enacted last year that strengthens enforcement abilities.
Together, the fire and law enforcement officials reminded community members that all fireworks are illegal countywide—including so-called “safe and sane” fireworks, which are also dangerous. “The potential for serious injury posed by these illegal devices and the risk of causing catastrophic wildfires during this time of extremely high fire danger is great,” said the group of officials.
According to Con Fire Chief Lewis Broschard, “The only safe and sane approach to fireworks in Contra Costa County is to simply not use them” and underscored that using them in our current drought conditions is irresponsible and poses “the very real possibility of causing wildland fires that could easily destroy homes and threaten lives in this time of critically high fire risk.”
The fireworks ordinance adopted last year by the County Board of Supervisors—Chapter 44-2 of the County Ordinance Code—fortifies regulations concerning the possession, manufacture, sale, use and discharge of fireworks in the unincorporated areas of the County, per a statement.
Property and vessel owners are responsible for ensuring fireworks use doesn’t occur on their property and could be liable if it does happen. An initial fine of $100 can be imposed for an ordinance violation, $200 for a second violation in the same year and $500 for each additional violation also within one year.
Contra Costa District Attorney Diana Becton reiterated that the use of fireworks is strictly prohibited countywide and that her office “will work vigilantly with our law enforcement partners to curtail the use of illegal fireworks” and that “those who engage in acts of unlawful burning that put our communities in danger will face legal jeopardy.”
Amid multiple fires in the county sparked in recent years by fireworks—including a four-alarm grassfire June 17 in Pittsburg that burned 120 acres, threatened 100 homes with destruction and forced the evacuation of 2,200 residents, per Con Fire—local officials are encouraging residents to celebrate Independence Day at sanctioned events run by professionals.
“We encourage our community to come and celebrate Richmond’s fireworks display on July 3rd and ask that all of our community respect each other’s right to safety and tranquility by not engaging in the use of illegal fireworks,” said Acting Chief Louie Tirona of the Richmond Police Department.
Chief Ron Raman of the San Pablo Police Department echoed these sentiments, noting that fireworks are illegal in the city, and invited community members to “come and enjoy our daytime July 4th family celebration at the Community Center.” He added that the department “will be working closely with our partners to enforce any violations of the law.”
Other safe alternatives include watching fireworks on TV, online and using glow-stick products, per the group of officials. Con Fire said it will publish a list of all fire marshal-approved Contra Costa County displays in the near future. Visit Con Fire online here.