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Local News

Santa Maria Launches Public Outreach Campaign to Publicize New Fireworks Rules

City also moving Fourth of July fireworks show to Pioneer Valley High School for expanded family-friendly activities and fewer noise impacts

City of Santa Maria spokesman Mark van de Kamp displays one of the yard signs the city is distributing as part of an educational and enforcement campaign against illegal fireworks. “They’re free for residents who have experienced fireworks going on the weeks before or after the Fourth of July,” he says. Click to view larger
City of Santa Maria spokesman Mark van de Kamp displays one of the yard signs the city is distributing as part of an educational and enforcement campaign against illegal fireworks. “They’re free for residents who have experienced fireworks going on the weeks before or after the Fourth of July,” he says. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

Armed with yard signs, public service announcements and fliers, the City of Santa Maria has launched a campaign to remind residents about the new rules for fireworks.

Residents — angry about effects of loud booms on pets, veterans, people with dementia and children with autism — lobbied the City Council last year to enforce rules prohibiting illegal fireworks, those not deemed safe and sane.

A year ago, Memorial Day weekend signaled the start of near nightly unauthorized fireworks shows in the Santa Maria Valley, startling pets and people sensitive to loud sounds.

This year’s campaign arose from the complaints, and is welcomed by those who asked the city to act.

“I think it’s fantastic because they’ve gone way beyond what we ever asked them to do,” said Libby Walling, a member of a Facebook group seeking zero tolerance of illegal fireworks.

At the urging of residents, the City Council approved a new program focused on education and enforcement.

To help spread the word, the city recently has acquired 250 yard signs in English plus the same number in Spanish. The two-sided signs measure about 14 inches by 23 inches.

“They’re free for residents who have experienced fireworks going on the weeks before or after the Fourth of July,” said Mark van de Kamp, the city’s public information officer.

Yard signs with wire stakes reading “Celebrate July 4th Neighborly, Noise Sensitive Resident Lives Here, Be Courteous to Your Neighbors” are now available for Santa Maria residents.

Signs are available from the City Manager’s Office in City Hall, 110 E. Cook St., between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.

Noncity residents wanting signs can find them online, he added.

Van de Kamp said the city is taking a multipronged approach, with an eye toward education first.

Some Santa Maria residents use illegal fireworks —those propelled into the sky — for various celebrations.

“It’s never been legal to do that,” van de Kamp said.

The city allows nonprofit organizations to sell state-certified “safe and sane” fireworks for use on the Fourth of July.

“We want people to understand they can only use safe and sane fireworks during a 12-hour span from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on the Fourth of July,” van de Kamp said.

Before the new rules, safe and sane fireworks could be used from noon June 28 — when sales booths opened — to noon July 5.

All fireworks, including safe and sane ones, are banned from most cities in Santa Barbara County. Santa Maria has allowed the sale and use since 1955, however.

Guadalupe also has allowed the use of safe and sane fireworks while Lompoc began allowing them in 2014.

Santa Maria’s public service announcements will be shown before movies in local theaters and can be viewed on the city’s YouTube channel. Radio advertisements also are planned and fliers were sent with water bills.

Additionally, volunteers also plan to fan out in neighborhoods to spread the message.

The city also plans to beef up enforcement to crack down on people selling illegal fireworks, which are freely advertised on social-media sites.

People who witness the use of illegal fireworks can sign a citation, with two signatures needed for what amounts to a citizen’s arrest.

Anyone caught using any fireworks on days other than July 4 will be subject to a $1,000 fine.

The city also has an illegal fireworks hotline at 805.925.0951 x3473 (FIRE).

Another big change this Fourth of July will be the location of the community fireworks show. Instead of Santa Maria Fairpark in the center of the city, the event will move to Pioneer Valley High School at 675 Panther Drive in northeast Santa Maria.

The new venue will come with expanded, family-friendly daytime activities leading up to the evening fireworks show set off from private property near the Santa Maria River.

“By moving the fireworks show from the middle of town, to the outskirts of town, that minimizes the impacts on as many residents as possible,” van de Kamp said. “Providing a great fireworks show also is an important part of getting the community to minimize use of illegal fireworks.”

A separate campaign will involving notifying neighbors about the new venue and increased noise and traffic.

Before the show becomes reality, the city needs to raise $30,000 in donations, reaching a third of the goal.

Tax-deductible contributions can be sent to PLAY Inc., Attention: Fireworks, 615 S. McClelland St., Santa Maria 93454.

Questions about fireworks donations may be directed to the City Manager’s Office at 805.925.0951 x2372. Questions about the daytime show events, including booth opportunities, may be directed to Pioneer Valley High’s Lisa Walters at 805.922.1305 x5508 or email [email protected].

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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