Tuesday, June 19 , 2018, 8:01 am | Fair 58º


Ron Fink: While Sherpa Fire Blazes On, It’s Time to Rethink ‘Sane’ Fireworks

Some folks just can’t get enough fun.

A couple of years ago three City of Lompoc leaders encouraged the child-like fantasies of bright lights, flying rockets and large booms by legalizing the sale and use of “Safe and Sane” fireworks during the 4th of July holiday.

The council majority at the time, led by former Mayor John Linn, sold themselves and the public on the idea that allowing such fireworks would somehow slow or stop the use of the illegal variety; neither the thoughtful adults in the community or public safety officials agreed with them.

Following Linn’s ouster in 2014, the council took up the issue again. Following Linn’s public testimony, the newly seated “good old boys” once again reaffirmed their notion that everyone would follow the rules and the public shouldn’t worry.

But that doesn’t align itself with reality. Maybe there is a large portion of the population that doesn’t read and certainly doesn’t follow the rules.

The ordinance the council passed only allowed folks to light “Safe and Sane” fireworks between 9 a.m. and 10 p.m. on July 4.

Keep in mind that so-called “Safe and Sane” fireworks don’t explode or fly into the air.

Fireworks — all fireworks — are still banned in county areas such as Mesa Oaks, Vandenberg Village and Mission Hills.

All year long in Lompoc we frequently hear explosions and see aerial fireworks all over town, and the police blotter lists numerous occurrences of fireworks-related responses. 

A 2014 report by Noozhawk indicates that those calls don’t go unanswered.

“The Lompoc Police Department issued its first citation of the season for the possession and use of illegal fireworks,” wrote Janene Scully in the 2014 report. “The citation carries a $1,500 fine, according to Lompoc City Administrator Patrick Wiemiller. He said the person was cited Saturday in the western portion of the city.”

There were a few fines in 2015, too, and according to a press release from the Lompoc Fire Department reminding residents of the illegal firework ban, 2016 may see a handful of citations.

The ordinance the Lompoc City Council passed has some serious penalties for breaking the rules, but I have listened as other “warnings” were issued for known violations this year.

It’s possible that today’s generation thinks that “if you don’t catch me it’s not a rule.” We see that mindset every day from drivers using cell phones at the wheel or passing through an intersection just as the light turns red.

Folks don’t seem to care if they are breaking the rules just as long as they don’t get caught. Then when they do they blame the cops for the problem that they created for themselves.

Parents are sending a bad message to their kids — it’s OK to break the rules, just don’t get caught. In a nation of laws, that’s called anarchy or a state of disorder due to absence or non-recognition of authority.

It is important to understand what the rules are. Just take a look at the Lompoc Municipal Code Health and Safety section.

“Because of the serious threat of fire or injury posed by the use of dangerous fireworks that can result from persistent or repeated failures to comply with [the rules],” the city “imposes strict civil liability upon the owners of residential real property for all violations of [the rules] existing on their residential real property.”

In short if you own rental property and your tenants don’t follow the rules, you may be fined. So, memo to property owners: tell your renters that you won’t allow the use of fireworks on your property and if they do use fireworks they are subject to eviction.

If you use anything other than “Safe and Sane” you can be fined anywhere from $1,500-$3,500. If you misuse “Safe and Sane,” including using them when they are not allowed, you can be fined anywhere from $500-$1,500.

The recent Sherpa Fire, now at 54 percent containment between Gaviota and Goleta, points out how volatile the landscape is.

What people don’t realize is that wooden shingle roofs, storage sheds and decorative drought-tolerant plants are just as vulnerable. And all that mulch you spread around your house is very flammable because it hasn’t seen any water and it has been chopped to kindling.

When we go to the polls we count on our elected leaders to be the adults in our community, adults who will lead the way to keep our community safe.

Clearly the three councilmembers who originally agreed to introduce and encourage this hazard in our city and those who reaffirmed it weren’t thinking rationally.

If you must use your own fireworks — instead of joining a community show — stick to the “Safe and Sane” type and observe all the precautions on the packaging.

If you chose to break the law, then I hope that you don’t set your neighbor’s house — or the Central Coast— on fire or severely injure one of your kids.

Lastly, it’s time to elect leaders who take their responsibility to keep our community safe seriously, and who will reinstate the ban on all fireworks in the City of Lompoc.

— Ron Fink, a Lompoc resident since 1975, is retired from the aerospace industry and has been active with Lompoc municipal government commissions and committee since 1992, including 12 years on the Lompoc Planning Commission. He is also a voting member of the Santa Barbara County Taxpayers Association. Contact him at [email protected]. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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