Merced sellers expect fireworks sales boom later in the week

June 30, 2010 

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SUN-STAR PHOTO BY MARCI STENBERG Eric Dockery, left, and Mike Smith, fireworks chairperson, stock shelves with big boxes of fireworks for the 4th of July buyers, Tuesday, june 29,2010 afternoon.

MARCI STENBERG — Merced Sun-Star

Monday was the first legal day to sell fireworks in California, and for Mike Smith, chairman of the Merced High School's Marching 100's fireworks booth, sales weren't booming.

The good news is that he expects sales to spark later in the week.

Smith, who has manned the same fireworks booth at the corner of Olive Avenue and G Street for 19 years, said only a handful of people bought fireworks Monday.

It wasn't the 104-degree heat that kept people away -- it was the fact that the first legal day to sell fireworks in California, which is always June 28, fell at the beginning of the week, Smith said.

"We are anticipating to beat last year's sales, which was a record for us," he said. "This is the largest fundraiser of the year for the band, and last year we were the No. 1 booth in the Valley."

Last Fourth of July, the nonprofit booth donated $25,000 to the high school band. "We have loyal customers," he said.

This year, 26 people in Merced submitted applications to open fireworks stands, but only 24 submitted the proper paperwork to the city, said Merced City Fire Chief Kenneth Mitten.

As of Monday, 19 booths have been scheduled to receive inspections, the Merced City fire inspector said.

Mitten said the number of inspections will increase later in the week, as some people prefer to open closer to the holiday.

Inspectors make sure that vendors are selling safe and sane fireworks and that booths comply with safety standards, said local fire officials.

If fireworks don't meet safety standards, Mitten said he confiscates them, then destroys them.

This week and up to the Fourth of July, fire officials will conduct spot checks at all fireworks booths.

"Our goal is for everyone to have a safe and sane Fourth of July," Mitten said.

The Merced Marching 100's will host a free fireworks safety demonstration at Merced High School Thursday and Saturday from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the northwest corner of G Street and Olive Avenue.

Legal fireworks are are only allowed in the the cities of Merced, Atwater, Dos Palos, Gustine, Livingston and Los Banos.

Reporter Jamie Oppenheim can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or joppenheim@mercedsun-star.com.

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