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Tuesday, March 26 , 2019, 2:21 am | Fair 48º


Groups Ask Santa Maria To Enforce Zero Tolerance Policy on Illegal Fireworks

Representatives from Santa Maria Valley Humane Society, Citizens for Zero Tolerance of Illegal Fireworks say use of non-safe-and-sane fireworks is rampant throughout city

The Santa Maria Valley Humane Society board of directors presented a resolution asking the Santa Maria City Council to enforce the zero tolerance policy on illegal fireworks.
The Santa Maria Valley Humane Society board of directors presented a resolution asking the Santa Maria City Council to enforce the zero tolerance policy on illegal fireworks.  (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

With illegal fireworks still being ignited weeks after the Fourth of July, the Santa Maria Valley Humane Society urged the city “to do what is legally and morally required” to enforce the zero tolerance policy.

During the Santa Maria City Council meeting Tuesday, Wanda McDonald, representing the Humane Society board of directors, read the resolution adopted Sept. 2 by the nonprofit organization’s leaders to call for enforcement of illegal fireworks.

“And further, to set an example as a truly All American city by declaring that a blatant disregard for the laws in place will not be tolerated in any form now or in the future,” she read from the resolution. 

She said the neighborhoods have been described as war zones with some 200 animals lost in the weeks before and after July 4 as they sought refuge or safety due to a fear of fireworks. 

Of the 2,673 cities and unincorporated areas in California, 296 allow state-designated safe and sane fireworks, according to McDonald.

“And some, like Salinas, recently banned all fireworks because they drain resources, cost the city money and are a danger,” McDonald added.

In Santa Barbara County, safe and sane fireworks are allowed in the cities of Santa Maria, Lompoc and Guadalupe around July 4.

All fireworks, except for professional shows, are banned in Santa Barbara County's unincorporated areas plus the cities of Solvang, Buellton, Santa Barbara, Goleta and Carpinteria each Independence Day.

Lompoc has only allowed fireworks for two years, with the council agreeing to allow nonprofit group sales against the fire and police chiefs’ opposition. They said it’s harder to police illegal fireworks when the city permits the safe and sane variety.

McDonald said Bakersfield’s fire chief has recommended the council rid the city of all fireworks, citing a danger to people, pets and property.

“But perhaps he’s just being what our city manager calls emotional when citizens of this city voiced their concerns," McDonald said.

Citizens for Zero Tolerance of Illegal Fireworks formed several weeks ago and will set up a booth A Cause 4 Paws pledge walk and pet fair held Sunday at Rotary Centennial Park in Santa Maria. Click to view larger
Citizens for Zero Tolerance of Illegal Fireworks formed several weeks ago and will set up a booth A Cause 4 Paws pledge walk and pet fair held Sunday at Rotary Centennial Park in Santa Maria. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

"Please don’t let Santa Maria be one of the few that continues to be a lawless place where anarchy rules the day."

A group of residents have attended  most council meetings since July 4 to implore the city leaders to enforce zero tolerance of fireworks, They have united under a Facebook group, Citizens for ‘Zero Tolerance’ of Illegal Fireworks.

Vonnie Stewart, who serves on the Humane Society board and runs a pet-sitting business, told the council about tiny dogs scaling a 10-foot-tall brick wall or a canine eating through drywall due to fireworks fears.

“It’s very, very heartbreaking to see these animals how much they suffer from the noise and the cracking. And it’s still going on,” Stewart said.

It’s not just pets that are disturbed by the illegal fireworks, which speakers said also affect veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, people with autism and elderly residents with dementia.

Use of illegal fireworks in Jay Cocozza’s quiet neighborhood has grown worse in recent years, he said, claiming the noise has harmed his property value.

City Manager Rick Haydon said the staff takes the speakers’ concerns seriously and has started researching how other cities address illegal fireworks enforcement.

“We have done our homework; we are trying to put together a plan of action,” he said.

City representatives had said they would meet with the group, but needed to wait until after summer due to vacations. Some staff members already held a preliminary meeting on the topic. 

Haydon said he expected the meeting with staff and the group’s members would occur within 45 days before returning to the City Council for action on the city plan.

Another leader of the anti-fireworks group, Debbie Warren, asked those in the audience to raise a hand if they were there to support fireworks ban.

“We’re getting few more every meeting and we’re going to continue,” Warren said as approximately two dozen people responded to her request.

Members have compiled locations of illegal fireworks and even have found illegal fireworks for sale online.

“It’s amazing how many people are truly concerned about this issue, and we’d really like to see s something done as soon as possible.”

“We want our community back,” she added.

The group is collecting signatures from people “who urge our leaders to act now to implement the prosecution and fining of individuals blatantly committing these violations and causing a disturbance of peace throughout our community.”

Representatives of the anti-fireworks group will be set up at A Cause 4 Paws pledge walk and pet fair to benefit the Santa Barbara County Animal Care Foundation.

Registration for the walk will occur from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. Sunday at Rotary Centennial Park, 2637 S. College Drive, in Santa Maria. Vendor booths will be open 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., with other activities including wiener dog and Chihuahua races.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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