Modesto sees big drop in use of illegal fireworks

Don't be fooled by the sporadic fireworks that boomed throughout the night in Modesto on Independence Day.

City fire crews said they recorded a marked drop in the use of illegal fireworks this year, a trend they attributed to a poor economy and residents getting the message that they risked $1,000 fines by breaking the law.

"Four and five years ago, it was likened to a war zone, and you just didn't see that (this year)," said Modesto Fire Marshal Mike Payton, who led a crew of law enforcement officers and firefighters in chasing down illegal fireworks Saturday night.

Modesto police issued 22 citations to people for using illegal fireworks, Sgt. Brian Findlen said.

The city usually hands out double that number, Payton said.

"There just wasn't the amount of people out doing it," he said. "In previous years, you were able to just walk down the street and write several citations."

It wasn't hard for most residents to spot illegal fireworks. They're illegal if they shoot into the air or explode.

Several soared above the trees in Enslen Park, where a couple of thousand people gathered to watch a concert and laser show.

Booms continued to echo along McHenry Avenue until late in the night.

"It's going to happen. There's no way to eradicate 100 percent of it," Payton said.

His crew consisted of Modesto police, Stanislaus County sheriff's deputies, representatives from the makers of legal fireworks and firefighters from several departments.

"This was a pretty successful year for the task force," he said. "I think the economy is having an impact on some of this, but I'm also hoping that people are getting the message."

Bee staff writer Adam Ashton can be reached at or 578-2366.