Alameda Co. reminds residents of fireworks safety

June 30, 2011 7:49:04 PM PDT
There's always increased concern about fires over the holiday weekend sparked by illegal fireworks. There are a handful of cities where a person could purchase the safe-and-sane variety, but there are serious restrictions on where those can be set off.

Police and fire officials say the safe-and-sane fireworks usually don't cause too many problems; the fireworks authorities are concerned about tend to be the illegal kind -- basically, anything that flies in the air or blows up.

As the Fourth of July weekend approaches, Alameda County fire officials took the opportunity to remind everyone exactly how destructive illegal fireworks can be.

"The majority of the fires that we see starting in our jurisdiction are directly related to the types of fireworks," said Alameda County Fire Chief Sheldon Gilbert. "The bottle rockets, the exploding firecrackers, M-80s and even some of the larger mortar-type that explode into the air and put sparks on roofs and into fields."

In Union City, police have already confiscated a cache of illegal fireworks well ahead of the holiday.

"Mostly bottle rockets," said Union City Police Lt. Ben Homer. "Occasionally we get some of the mortar types that shoot up into the air -- those are all illegal. During the week prior to the Fourth of July, we have special enforcement out looking for illegal fireworks."

Union City also happens to be one of three Alameda County cities that sell safe-and-sane fireworks, with the other cities including Newark and Dublin. Sales of the fireworks in those three cities go to benefit local schools.

"We have some challenges in the financial piece," said Dublin Elementary School principal Tess Johnson. "It really helps us to fund many programs."

Safe-and-sane fireworks are legal there, but not in most of the surrounding cities. Contra Costa County, for example, bans fireworks of all types.

Police and fire departments throughout the Bay Area plan to be out in force during the weekend to shut down anything that's illegal or unsafe.


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