Fines explode for illegal fireworks

The price tag for getting caught with illegal fireworks has gone up, and Fourth of July revelers should think twice before lighting up unlawful explosives, officials announced Thursday.

In Modesto, the fine for using illegal fireworks is a minimum of $1,000, up from $750 last year. Police and sheriff's deputies will be on the lookout for violators over the next few weeks, and they will be issuing fines to lawbreakers, authorities said.

An updated state law makes it easier for officials to cite illegal users and sellers. Fines now are based on the gross weight of the fireworks, including packaging. Less than 25 pounds earns the $1,000 fine. In the past, the law was based on "pyrotechnic composition," or the weight of the explosive material inside the fireworks, which was difficult for officers to measure.

Acting Modesto Police Chief Mike Harden said officers will practice a "zero tolerance" policy.

Only fireworks stamped with the "Safe and Sane" logo are legal. Those state-approved fireworks are on sale from noon Sunday to noon July 6.

People sometimes are tempted to use illegal fireworks because they promise bigger explosions and higher-flying pyrotechnics, said Modesto Fire Marshal Mike Payton. Such explosives aren't just criminal, they're also dangerous, he said.

"We want everyone to celebrate and have fun on our nation's birthday, but we want them to do it safely," Harden said.

Bee staff writer Leslie Albrecht can be reached at or 578-2378.


Fireworks Fact Sheet


All legal fireworks are marked with the state fire marshal's "Safe and Sane" seal.

Types of legal fireworks:

  • Spinners
  • Cone, base, box
  • or tube fountains
  • Hand-held items
  • Novelty items
  • Smoke items


Watch out for the following illegal fireworks:

  • Cherry bombs
  • M-80s
  • M-100s
  • Roman candles
  • Silver salutes
  • Bottle rockets
  • Firecrackers
  • Aerial shells
  • and mortars
  • Helicopters


Less than 25 pounds gross weight of illegal fireworks, including packaging:

  • Violation: Misdemeanor
  • Punishment: In the city of Modesto, a mandatory $1,000 fine

25 pounds to 100 pounds gross weight, including packaging:

  • Violation: Misdemeanor
  • Punishment: One year in county jail and-or $1,000 to $5,000 fine


The fire marshal suggests these safety tips:

  • Always read directions
  • Have an adult present
  • Do not use near dry grass
  • Light one at a time
  • Keep a safe distance
  • Never point or throw fireworks
  • Never experiment with fireworks
  • Have water handy
  • Never attempt to relight
  • Never carry fireworks in pockets
  • Do not wear loose-fitting clothing


Where legal in California, fireworks must be “Safe and Sane.” Modifying them is a felony. They can be sold from noon Sunday until noon July 6. You must be 16 or older to purchase them.

  • Stanislaus County: Legal, with one exception: "Piccolo Petes," which whistle, are illegal in Turlock.
  • Merced County: Illegal, except in Atwater, Dos Palos, Gustine, Merced, Livingston, Los Banos.
  • San Joaquin County: Illegal except in Ripon, Vernalis, Escalon, Manteca.
  • Tuolumne County: Illegal
  • Calaveras County: Illegal in the Central Fire Protection District in Mountain Ranch as well as Ebbetts Pass by Arnold
  • Mariposa County: Illegal

To report people using illegal fireworks in Stanislaus County, call 552-3911.

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