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Lompoc Council Votes to Allow Sale and Use of Some Fireworks for Fourth of July

After hearing more than an hour of public comment, the council decides to deny a motion to reinstate a ban on safe and sane fireworks

With supporters invoking founding father John Adams and patriotism, and opponents citing concerns about fires, pets and noise, a divided Lompoc City Council on Tuesday night agreed to allow residents to buy and use so-called "safe and sane" fireworks on July 4.

The council voted 3-2 to reject a motion to reinstate the ban on state-certified safe and sane fireworks — or those that are not propelled into the air.

Mayor Bob Lingl and Councilman DeWayne Holmdahl voted for prohibiting fireworks again.

During the joint meeting with the Public Safety Commission, the council heard more than an hour of comments from residents in favor of and opposed to fireworks.

Resident Carl Creel said prohibiting fireworks is akin to gun control. 

“Banning guns only punishes the law-abiding citizens,” Creel said. “This is a similar situation.”

J.C. Knapp read a quote from the country’s second president, John Adams, who said Independence Day should be celebrated as “the great anniversary festival.”

“It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other from this time forward forever more,” Knapp read. 

Former council candidate Steve Chudoba, a local substitute teacher, spoke out against the ban, calling it unpatriotic to prohibit people from using fireworks.

Both Fire Chief Kurt Latipow and Police Chief Pat Walsh recommended reinstating the ban, noting their roles involve managing risks to the city. 

Latipow said illegal fireworks have proliferated in the state due to cutbacks on the inspectors who worked to halt those bringing them into California via the northern and southern borders plus the ports. Fire chiefs have asked the State Fire Marshal’s Office to bring back the inspection program, he added.

“My position is the safe and sane (fireworks) makes it tougher for us to focus on the illegals,” Latipow said.

Councilman Dirk Starbuck asked Walsh whether "safe and sane" fireworks are legal in Portland, Oregon, where the police chief formerly worked.

Walsh confirmed they are legal in his former city.

“And also it rains 10 months a year up there,” Walsh said, adding that the city also wrestled with illegal fireworks. “I look at this valley and I look at the brush all around and I worry about it.”

However, both chiefs said they were prepared to carry out whatever policy the council adopted, and suggested that if fireworks are allowed in 2015, the council keep the same rules and fees as the city used in 2014.

In the two years since Lompoc lifted the ban, dispatchers reported a skyrocketing number of calls related to illegal fireworks. From the 48 noted in 2012, the number climbed to 173 in 2014, Latipow said.

Enforcement on July 4 only would cost about $16,000 for police, fire and parks department staff, Latipow added.

While fireworks can be purchased and used in Lompoc, they are illegal in unincorporated areas of Santa Barbara County surrounding the city including Vandenberg Village, Mission Hills, Mesa Oaks and Vandenberg Air Force Base. They also are prohibited in Solvang and Buellton.

Vandenberg Village resident Richard Rosen spoke out against allowing fireworks in the city because, he said, they are brought into rural neighborhoods where homes are adjacent to chaparral.

Using the fact no fireworks-related fires happened in the past two year to justify continuing sales is “absolutely absurd,” he added.

Debra Bastian also said she favored the ban, noting the impact of the loud concussions on veterans who suffer from post traumatic stress disorder, including those at the newly opened Champion Center for public safety and military personnel in a substance abuse treatment.

“I support reinstating the ban. I believe it was a mistake to do it in the beginning,” resident Terry Hammons said. 

Instead of banning fireworks, resident Carol Benham urged the city to boost enforcement and education efforts, noting social media posts last summer noted fireworks began days before July 4 and continued weeks afterward. 

“Let’s focus on that,” she said. “Let’s do more.”

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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