SACRAMENTO, Calif (KTXL) – The use of illegal fireworks began to spike last year as the COVID-19 lockdown steered people to nontraditional forms of entertainment and not just on holidays.
The trend has law enforcement and fire officials on alert.
“We have an exponential increase in calls,” said Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Rod Grassmann.
“We know that fireworks are going to be an issue and we’ve already had some reports of their usage throughout the county,” said Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District Captain Chris Vestal.
It’s no surprise that Metro Fire investigators made a felony arrest of a man for selling illegal of fireworks on a social media site.
Over 100 pounds of banned fireworks were confiscated.
While many big community fireworks shows that were canceled last year are back on track this year, there is a concern that new habits will die hard.
Some of the items confiscated were commercial-grade rockets and mortars that are only safe to handle by certified technicians.
Other fireworks look legal, often because they are in other states but not in fire-prone California.
“Just because they were made and sold in other states doesn’t mean they are legal here,” Vestal explained. “You could face criminal charges, especially if you cause injury or a fire.”
In recent years, special fireworks teams have looked skyward trying to trace illegal fireworks back to those who lit them and have responded to citizen complaints.
“We drive there, we contact those folks, we cite and or arrest and confiscate the illegal fireworks,” Grassmann said.
Both sheriff and fire investigators will say it’s tough to catch people in the act of using illegal fireworks, which places bigger importance on confiscating illegal fireworks at their source.
“We’ve seen a rise with firework incidents throughout the years, and of course over the last couple of years they’ve increased, so for us to get ahead of the game by taking these fireworks off the streets will definitely help keep the public safe,” said Metro Fire investigator Paul Tualla.
That’s why fire investigators welcome any tips that can lead them to illegal fireworks operations.
They also want to remind people in this fire-prone year that using any fireworks in Sacramento County, legal or not, is not allowed until the week before the Fourth of July.
Fire officials say the general rule is if a firework sends anything flying or spinning into the air, it is unsafe and likely illegal.
All approved fireworks have California’s “Safe and Sane” seal on them.