Local officials stress fire danger during uptick in illegal fireworks use

Local News
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(KTXL) — Normally, the use of illegal fireworks ramps up the closer it gets to the Fourth of July. But many residents feel this year it started earlier and has been more frequent.

Police nationwide have always had to contend with illegal fireworks but some feel the COVID-19 lockdown has narrowed the choices of activities for the restless.

The fear is that Friday and Saturday nights the volume of illegal fireworks will grow.

“Because they go up in the air, because they travel further, they are more likely to cause a fire,” said Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District Capt. Chris Vestal.

Apparently, more people are buying legal fireworks this year after communities began canceling large fireworks shows. 

There could be a bigger chance that they will be used incorrectly.

“Our vegetation is dry, as you can see behind me, and any spark, whether that’s from fireworks legal or illegal or anything else, barbecues, can ignite a large fire,” Capt. Vestal told FOX40.

Despite the huge volume of fireworks sales this year, local fire officials hope that those who buy them will use them responsibly.

As for illegal fireworks, injuries are just as concerning as property damage.

“It’s basically gunpowder, right?” said Citrus Heights Police Lt. Wesley Herman.

Citrus Heights is teaming with Metro Fire to look for violators.

“Additional patrol officers, the arson investigator out and their sole purpose will be to look for these illegal fireworks,” Herman explained.

Catching culprits in the act has always been tough. Officers practically have to stumble onto illegal fireworks by accident. Responding to tips or complaints often isn’t enough.

“By the time the officer is able to get into that area, right, those fireworks maybe have ceased,” said Jason Jimenez with the Elk Grove Police Department.

That’s why Elk Grove police officers this year are using a free phone app called Nail ‘em. Citizens can send in pictures or information with automatic GPS coordinates.

Fireworks teams using officers, code enforcement and fire personnel are actively connected to the system.

“We’ll be monitoring live and we’ll be sent off to officers out in the field for, hopefully, a more prompt response,” Jimenez explained.

Elk Grove police have begun a program to get more people and community groups to download and use the app, hoping it will deter illegal fireworks use.

Local police agencies are reminding people that they can call in tips to their non-emergency lines if they spot people using illegal fireworks or 911 if it results in a serious emergency.

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