Man arrested for having 200 lbs. of fireworks

June 30, 2008 6:51:30 PM PDT
Wildfires are such a threat right now that authorities are racing to keep Independence Day free of disaster. Authorities call them "dangerous and insane"-- illegal fireworks that can turn a celebration into a tragedy in an instant.

On Sunday, police officers in East Palo Alto found a few hundred pounds of illegal fireworks after stopping a white pick-up truck. Anything over 100 pounds is considered a felony and the man was booked into San Mateo County Jail.

"I said 'do you mind if we take a look inside?' He said 'no' and he got out of his car and went to the back, unlocked it, opened it up and there were the 240 plus pounds of fireworks. I was very surprised," says Officer Shante Williams.

There may have been more. Police say they believe the driver of that car was selling them throughout the community that day. There was even a mortar.

On Monday, East Palo Alto banned all fireworks, even the safe and sane ones. Other cities have done the same, like San Francisco and Oakland.

In Oakland, 115 people were cited for fireworks possession last year and 52 were arrested. East Oakland has traditionally been the hot spot.

In the past six months, the San Francisco Police Department has confiscated 3,000 pounds of fireworks, almost as much as what was seized for all of last year.

"Last year, for the entire year, we seized 3,800 pounds, so based on those figures you can see there are plenty of fireworks coming into this city," says San Francisco Police Chief Heather Fong.

The question is why?

"It's profitable, certainly for those that peddle the fireworks. San Francisco is known to be a hub for illegal fireworks to begin with. It's used for celebratory purposes during Chinese New Year," says Chief Harold Schapelhauman of the Menlo Park Fire Protection Association

East Palo Alto police say they'll have more officers patrolling areas considered to be hot spots. San Francisco and Oakland are expected to do the same.

San Francisco's fire chief says the situation during this fire season is already critical.

"At this time, I'm told there are approximately 1,400 fires within the state that are burning and we have almost 20,000 firefighters deployed to help suppress these fires," says Chief Joanne Hayes-White.

Menlo Park Fire Department handles all the calls for the East Palo Alto area. They said that they will not deploy any fire crews to any of the Northern California wildfires because they need to concentrate all their efforts locally during 4th of July weekend.


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