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ELK GROVE, Calif. (KTXL) – The night skies over the Sacramento valley Saturday night were filled with other bright objects besides fireworks, such as aerial drones looking to film the rockets exploding in the night sky.

But a couple of drones flying in Elk Grove had the job of stopping illegal fireworks rather than record them.

“It’s typically one of the busiest nights of the year,” Elk Grove Police Officer Jason Jimenez told FOX40.

According to Jimenez, the trouble with most illegal fireworks is that they are dangerous to people because they don’t fly as high as commercial fireworks and their explosive power means they can sometimes land while still hot. That may result in fires that endanger buildings and homes.

It’s why the Elk Grove Police Department deployed their Unmanned Aerial System units last week, including Saturday evening.

The Elk Grove Police Department’s drone unit has already proven invaluable in terms of covering a lot of ground quickly.

The drones were acquired in 2019 and have been used extensively to search for missing persons, cover escape routes when search warrants are served, monitor traffic incidents and help when police vision is needed in larger areas.

A pilot and a spotter are used for each drone.

“With the bird’s eye view, if you will, to be able to gain that advantage, to be able to see a broader area of the city,” explained Jimenez.

The department’s UAS pilots were given the tough job of catching people using illegal fireworks Saturday night, the first time they were deployed on the Fourth of July.

Jimenez said confirming exact addresses was hard to see but in at least one case, police were able to put ground units in play.

“The UAS pilot was able to narrow down the specific location to an apartment complex and with that information, the officers were then able to drive into the complex and try to locate those people who were responsible,” explained Jimenez.

Jimenez said catching people in the act of using illegal fireworks is still hard but the presence of police units stopped the activity quickly, which is the goal.

Elk Grove police also deployed the Nail ’em phone app for the first time, which got ordinary citizens to send information, photos and GPS coordinates of illegal fireworks activity to the dispatch center.

“This is just another tool that we’re trying to use to, hopefully, reduce that problem,” said Jimenez.

The Elk Grove Police Department has around a dozen trained pilots and spotters who can deploy the highly mobile drones quickly.