People lined up at a ‘Safe and sane’ fireworks booth.
‘Safe and sane’ fireworks booths have opened in Santa Maria, Lompoc, and Guadalupe. The fireworks must be used in the cities where they were purchased. All fireworks are prohibited throughout the rest of Santa Barbara County. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

Nonprofit groups began selling “safe and sane” fireworks in three Santa Barbara County cities Sunday, but buyers need to be aware of the rules regarding when and where they can legally be used.

The state-certified safe and sane fireworks can be purchased in the cities of Santa Maria, Lompoc and Guadalupe, but ignited only on July 4.

They also can legally be used only in those cities since all fireworks, including those deemed safe and sane, remain prohibited in Santa Barbara County’s unincorporated areas plus the cities of Santa Barbara, Goleta, Carpinteria, Solvang and Buellton.

Due to the public health emergency and social distancing rules, community fireworks shows have been canceled to avoid gatherings of large crowds, noted Capt. Daniel Bertucelli of the Santa Barbara County Fire Department

“Unfortunately, that might cause people to use those safe and sane fireworks in areas where they’re not supposed to, because they’re not going to be able to have that fireworks show being put on by the different communities in the county,” Bertucelli said, asking residents to forego the tradition rather than use them illegally.

Even safe and sane fireworks require precautions since they could spark a fire amid the Central Coast’s dry conditions.

“They’re expecting the temperatures to start heating up this weekend. We haven’t had rain in quite a while, and with those hot temperatures and dry conditions, a rogue firework, even though somebody might think that it’s safe, could cause an issue to get out of control pretty quick,” Bertucelli said.

Santa Barbara County communities have already noted a huge increase in illegal fireworks, or those launched into the air and responsible for loud booms.

Sellers of legal fireworks include church groups, youth sports clubs, and other nonprofit organizations that have said the booths can be lucrative. 

The trio of cities allowing safe and sane fireworks have restrictions on when they can be used.

While sales started Sunday and end on July 4, the fireworks only can be used from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on July 4 in Santa Maria, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. on July 4 in Lompoc, and 11 a.m. to 11:59 p.m. on July 4 in Guadalupe.

Law enforcement officers in Santa Maria will be armed for the second year with a social-host ordinance, debuting for the first year in Guadalupe to help crack down on scofflaws.

That law allows citations for use of illegal fireworks, or improper use of legal fireworks, to go to the property owner.

“It was effective last year, and we’re hoping we made a difference,” said Santa Maria Police Lt. Mark Streker, who is leading the special enforcement effort.

Santa Maria, Lompoc and Guadalupe employ both education and enforcement when it comes to fireworks. 

All three cities have said they would beef up enforcement efforts as July 4 nears, with some undertaking undercover operations.

Fines for misusing fireworks typically run $1,000 or higher. 

For Santa Maria, the educational efforts included inserts in utility bills explaining the rules, and radio ads in English and Spanish reminding residents that fireworks and pets don’t mix. Fliers also were handed out to buyers at booths.

Santa Maria has an illegal fireworks hotline of 805.925.0951 ext. 3473 (FIRE), and an online complaint form available by clicking here.

Authorities ask that complaints include as much specific information as possible.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.