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Illegal Fireworks Use Adds Up to More Than Two Dozen Citations in Santa Maria

The city of Santa Maria’s crackdown on the use of illegal fireworks led to more than two dozen citations and the education of multiple residents about the new restrictions.

Officials on Monday gave a recap on the various aspects of the Fourth of July celebration in Santa Maria for 2016, the first year of an effort to stem the number of illegal fireworks in the city.

“It seemed to me that the illegal fireworks were significantly less leading up to the Fourth of July and after the Fourth of July than we’ve seen in previous years,” Councilman Jack Boysen said. “But it did seem like the Fourth of July there was every bit as much.”

Police Chief Ralph Martin agreed, but added that the issue is similar to cities that worked to stop people from firing guns into the air during celebrations that ended up injuring people. 

“It does take a period of time to educate people not to do certain things,” Martin said.

The Santa Maria Police Department, in conjunction with the Santa Maria Fire Department and Code Enforcement staff, received 762 calls regarding firework complaints between June 1 and July 6, officials said.

In addition, staff members contacted 150 residents regarding the use of illegal fireworks.

More than 100 pounds of fireworks were seized, and fireworks also sparked at least two small fires, city officials confirmed.

The effort ended with one felony criminal citation, 23 administrative citations that carry a $1,000 fine, and two misdemeanor criminal citations.

The city also issued one third-party citation for illegal fireworks, and handed out a $100 citation for illegal use of "safe and sane" fireworks outside the 12-hour period when they are allowed. 

City firefighters also inspected booths where nonprofit organizations sold state-designated safe and sane fireworks, with one booth closed for a day after failing to produce the proper permit from the state fire marshal, Interim Fire Chief Scott Kenley said. 

His staff also inspected six block-party permits.

“One of those of permitted block parties was found to have illegal fireworks activity,” Kenley said. “That block party will not be permitted in 2017.”

Two engines responded after the city show finale ignited vegetation near the Santa Maria River, Kenley said. 

Crews responded to five additional fireworks-related incidents, including one that reportedly caused $500 damage to an adjacent residence, Kenley added.

While his crews did not respond to any calls involving fireworks-related injuries, the fire chief recounted a second-hand report of an incident in which the patient went by private vehicle to the hospital.

The city fireworks show moved to a new location this year, with spectators gathering at Pioneer Valley High School, where a carnival occurred. Previously, spectators gathered at and around the Santa Maria Fairpark as fireworks were lit from the nearby Santa Maria High School football stadium.

Recreation and Parks Director Alex Posada said the carnival attracted approximately 350 participants, with 100 people taking advantage of the free swimming at the nearby pool.

Between 600 and 800 vehicles used the high school stadium parking lot to view the fireworks, he added.

The fireworks show, with 509 shells, encountered technical difficulties when the electronics failed so they had to be ignited by hand, Posada said. 

“All in all, it went well from our perspective of handling the show,” Posada said, adding that traffic was light and well controlled. 

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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