Watsonville votes to ban sale of fireworks

June 25, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) went to Monterey County on Wednesday to see the damage done by wildfires there. With conditions right for more fires, he's asking all of us to think this July Fourth.

"Don't buy any of the fireworks. Don't go out and do fireworks this year. It would help firefighters and the state and law enforcement and everyone a tremendous amount if you want to contribute and make sure those fires go away and we don't have more fires coming up," said Governor Schwarzenegger.

This week two Bay Area cities have considered banning the sale of safe and sane fireworks. Gilroy voted Tuesday night to let the sale continue and on Wednesday night it was Watsonville's turn.

Watsonville will not follow Gilroy's lead. Safe and sane booths will remain closed, and the fireworks will not be sold in this city.

If there was one lesson, Watsonville's Fire Chief learned from last week's Trabing Fire, it's that anything can start a fire. Hot exhaust from a car's tail pipe caught dry grass on fire.

Now, Chief Mark Brisbee thinks safe and sane fireworks normally sold in Watsonville, can be just as dangerous.

"Safe and sane still burn at 1200 degrees and that's enough to ignite an unwanted fire," said Chief Mark Brisbee with the Watsonville Fire Dept.

Lightning caused Saturday's Hummingbird Fire in Gilroy and more strikes are expected this weekend. Add to that, extremely dry conditions, and recently a local engine left to help fight the fires in Chico. These of these are reasons why Chief Brisbee is asking the City Council to ban the sale of fireworks this year.

"Safe and sane fireworks are not the reason that fires occur," said Gary Garcia, a Watsonville H.S. Wrestling supporter.

Fireworks sales generates $230,000 for Watsonville non-profits. That's why they don't want the booths to close. They simply can't afford it.

"Pajaro Valley Children's Center cannot withstand the nearly 10,000 loss we are looking at in regard to not having a fireworks booth," said Judy Woods, with the Pajaro Valley Children's Center.

"I would urge you to reconsider any measure to suspend it this year," said Tom Sullivan, Watsonville High School football coach.

And so the pleas went on, inside a room that was clearly divided. In the back of the room were those directly impacted if funds could not be raised. In the front were firefighters who admit they're exhausted. And in the middle were homeowners, who also have a lot at stake.

"For us to think we could sell fireworks for money and put people's lives in danger, I think it's insane," said Mary Armstrong, a homeowner.

"Vote no and say enough is enough," said Peggy Triplitt, a homeowner.

In the end, it was precaution over profits that won out. The council voted unanimously to ban the sale of fireworks this year.

Still, the council did say they wanted to help the non-profits raise money. Now there's talk of using grant dollars as well as a consultant to come up with fundraising ideas.


Load Comments