Lemoore City Council considers beefing up local dangerous fireworks regulations?

By Ed Martin, Editor

Like clockwork, sometime around 9 p.m. on Monday, July 4, despite local and state rules which regulate the use of dangerous fireworks, many Lemoore residents will violate those state and local laws and happily begin setting off various kinds of firecrackers, sending colorful skyrockets into the warm night air, and exploding just about any number of loud devices meant to surprise and frighten the unsuspecting neighbor.

With these thoughts in mind, Lemoore’s City Council will again consider the adoption of a local ordinance beefing up its fireworks ordinance, a move that could cost those illegal users and property owners hefty fines.

July 5 Lemoore City Council Agenda

At its last council meeting, three of the five-member council voted to enact the ordinance, moving it to Tuesday night’s final adoption. Councilmembers Billy Siegel and Edward Neal were absent.

According to a city staff report, it has been difficult in recent years identifying local residents who use dangerous fireworks because local law enforcement or other code enforcement officers “must catch someone in the act, unless a witness is willing to make a citizens’ arrest,” which usually won’t happen as “neighbors don’t want to get involved to such a degree.”

The new ordinance requires only that officers be able to identify what property the fireworks were launched from, meaning those living at the property, or the owner of the property if it’s a rental, would be held financially responsible for what could be up to a $1,000 fine.

According to the ordinance’s language: “If the homeowner is allowing someone to use their property to launch illegal fireworks they are definitely culpable, even if they did not buy them or light them.”

Other changes included revising Lemoore’s rules to better adhere to the state’s guidelines and rules regarding dangerous fireworks. Currently state law mandates that residents may not use or purchase fireworks classified by the State as dangerous.

In spite of California and local laws, from June 17 to July 17 every year, an average of 200 people a day show up in emergency rooms with firework-related injuries, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Most of those injured are children. Injuries to eyes and fingers are most common and more than half of the injuries involve burns.

Even the lowly sparkler, bane of every young child’s Fourth of July experience, burns at 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. That temperature will melt metal, so it will certainly severely burn and scar skin, causing tremendous pain and trauma to the burn victim. In fact, sparklers are the number one cause of reported injuries due to fireworks.

California State Law Regarding Dangerous Fireworks

California’s State Fireworks Law, passed in 1973, classifies the items that qualify as "fireworks," specifies who may possess or sell them, and dictates when and where they may be set off.

Counties within the state may enact their own ordinances, and most have. These local laws can mirror state law, but cannot add to the rules in the State Fireworks Law. That's because the Legislature intended the state scheme to totally occupy the field of fireworks legislation.

Private citizens who are not licensed by the state to discharge explosives are strictly prohibited from possessing and/or discharging (and retailers are prohibited from selling) certain fireworks that state law lists as “dangerous.” These fireworks include:

  • any that contain arsenic sulfide, arsenates, or arsenites, boron, chlorates, gallates or gallic acid, magnesium, mercury salts, phosphorous, picrates or picric acid, thiocyanates, titanium, or zirconium
  • firecrackers
  • skyrockets and rockets (anything that shoots up and explodes)
  • roman candles and anything that discharges a ball of fire into the air
  • chasers (anything that darts or travels along ground during discharge)
  • sparklers more than 10 inches in length or one-fourth of one inch in diameter
  • fireworks designed and intended by the manufacturer to create the element of surprise upon the user (the exploding cigar is a classic example)
  • torpedoes of all kinds that explode on impact
  • fireworks kits
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