They go by familiar names: sky rockets, bottle rockets, Roman candles, M-80s and cherry bombs.
Some shoot high into the air, exploding with a rooster tail of showering sparks. Others can be recognized by a concussive boom that rattles windows and jangles nerves of people and pets alike.
While the thrill and spectacle they create can be impressive, the danger they pose is equally awe-inspiring, both to the user as well as to nearby homes and fields that may catch fire from the discharge of illegal fireworks.
Several years ago, the City of Sacramento established the Illegal Fireworks Mitigation Task Force (IFMT) to respond to the increasing use of illegal fireworks. IMFT’s mission is to “proactively reduce the number of illegal fireworks in our community by focusing on the sale of illegal fireworks and providing response to fireworks related complaints during July 4 and the weeks prior,” said City of Sacramento Fire Marshal Jason Lee.
The proactive measures, including education and task-force response to individual complaints, initially were effective, Lee said. However, last year, during the pandemic, Sacramento saw a sizable uptick in illegal-fireworks use, with the cancellation of professional fireworks shows leading to an increased demand for illicit combustibles. Officials also said they have seen the use of illegal fireworks become more of a year-round activity.
In response, the Sacramento City Council on Tuesday approved several new enforcement tools to curb illegal-fireworks use and protect neighborhoods. They include:
- Increased fines: Fines are $1,000 for the first violation, $2,500 for the second violation within the first year, and $5,000 for each additional violation within the year of the first violation.
- Host liability: Fines can be imposed on property owners or renters who allow illegal firework activity on their property.
- Limited times for “safe and sane” fireworks: These fireworks — which are not explosive, not aerially launched, and have been tested and approved by the state fire marshal –only can be discharged between noon and 11 p.m. June 28 and between 9 a.m. and 11 p.m. June 29 through July 4. The sale of safe and sane fireworks are limited to June 28 through July 4 as well.
“This is a compromise that doesn’t hurt the fundraising efforts of a lot of very worthy organizations,” said Councilmember Jeff Harris. “It gives a tool in the toolkit to deal with this.”
Residents reporting illegal fireworks should call the non-emergency police number at 916-808-5471. They also can use a free online reporting smart-phone app called “Nail- ’em,” which is monitored by the Sacramento Fire Department.
Officials emphasized that current drought conditions have made illegal fireworks even more of a pressing concern. “One errant spark can put a whole neighborhood at risk,” Lee said.
To help spread the word about the dangers of illegal fireworks, the City has held more than 20 community meetings on the topic and has developed outreach materials in multiple languages. The City also is partnering with the County of Sacramento to conduct an educational campaign ahead of Independence Day celebrations.