The Merced County Fire Department and local law enforcement officials held a news conference Tuesday to inform the public on the dangers of illegal fireworks.
Not only do illegal fireworks pose a significant fire danger, they can also cause serious injury. Fireworks may also upset people suffering from Post-traumatic stress disorder as well as pets and other animals, according to a Merced County news release.
“We want to remind everybody out there that California has a zero tolerance for illegal fireworks,” said Merced County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Aaron Rosenberg.
Deputies will be out looking for the use of fireworks such as bottle rockets, roman candles, aerial shells, firecrackers or other illegal fireworks that explode or go into the air.
“It’s illegal to sell or transport these types of fireworks that do not carry the ‘Safe and Sane’ logo on them,” Rosenberg said.
If convicted, a violator could face up to $50,000 in fines as well as jail for up to one year, according to Rosenberg.
Authorities also warned parents that they are liable for any injuries that happen to their children.
“The District Attorney’s Office will be working with law enforcement throughout the county,” said Merced County District Attorney Kimberly Lewis. “We will be receiving and reviewing all of the reports that are generated and we will be prosecuting these cases to the fullest.”
According to fire officials as well as Merced County law enforcement officials, additional personnel and enforcement efforts will be in effect in the cities of Merced, Atwater, Dos Palos, Los Banos and Livingston during the Fourth of July holiday.
According to California Highway Patrol Capt. Becky Hagen, all available personnel will be out during a maximum enforcement period on the Fourth of July holiday and officers will assist allied agencies as well as look for fireworks related violations.
Within the City of Merced, there are three different ways to report illegal fireworks, according to Deputy Fire Chief Casey Wilson.
The Merced Fire Department asks citizens to not call 911 in reporting fireworks prior to July 3 and July 4, as those calls tie up emergency lines. Instead, citizens are asked to call 385-6912 to report fireworks in progress. Beginning on July 3 at 7 p.m. and running through July 4, citizens are asked to call the 388-SAFE telephone number, use the Merced Connect app or the CelebrateSafe@cityofmerced.org email address.
The Merced Police Department in coordination with the Merced Fire Department will have extra staffing and patrols in place to enforce the fireworks, said Wilson.
According to Wilson, administrative citations will be used within the City of Merced and begin at $1,000 for the first citation, $1,500 for the second and $2,000 for the third citation.
Citizens of Atwater are asked to not call 911 to report illegal fireworks. Instead they are asked to call the main police department telephone number, according to Atwater Police Chief Michael Salvador.
Additionally, each year the Merced County Animal Shelter receives an increased number of calls reporting lost animals.
Some ways pet owners can keep their pets safe over the Fourth of July holiday include having your pet microchipped as well as having a collar on the animal containing the owner’s name and telephone number in case the pet gets lost.
Authorities also advise pet owners to keep animals indoors and secured while fireworks are going off. Playing music where the animal is housed to drown out the sound of fireworks is also recommended.
Authorities advise consulting a veterinarian regarding suitable medication for pets with anxiety and to keep pets away from hot barbecue grills, sparklers or any other items that may harm them.
‘We want to make sure that everybody has a safe Fourth of July, prevent injuries not only to children but adults as well,” said Calfire Merced County Division Chief Jeremy Rahn.