Police on the lookout for illegal fireworks

July 1, 2011 5:45:19 PM PDT
Law enforcement officials around the Bay Area are going to be on the lookout for illegal fireworks during the July 4 weekend. In San Francisco Friday, police were patrolling for illegal sales.

A group of teenagers were in Chinatown were looking for fireworks.

"We've heard it's been easy but we can't find any fireworks," one of them said.

Maybe they were not looking in the right places, because the young entrepreneurs were out en masse.

"The whole street, all the way down to Bush street, a lot of little kids, 15 year olds, are selling fireworks at every corner almost, you know," Chinatown merchant Kevin Liu said.

A team of officers from nearby Central Station were also in Chinatown looking for fireworks.

Ofc. Leon Sorhondo has been on the fireworks detail for two decades. He knows many of the kids selling by their first name.

"The kids are out here, they've got their cell phones now and they're trying to see if they can get an order," Sorhondo said.

Just last week, undercover officers in Chinatown made several arrests and seized a cache of fireworks.

"There was a variety of fireworks; some of them were the more powerful M-80's and 1000 types," Capt. Stephen Tacchini said.

"Usually, for the Fourth of July, I go somewhere really secluded where I won't hear explosions," Roisin Isner said.

Isner knows just powerful M-80's can be. Four years ago on July 4, Isner and her friends were in Dolores Park watching the fireworks display from the wharf when people began throwing M-80's into the crowd. One of them exploded near her.

"We all scattered and the shrapnel tore apart my right hand as I covered my face," Isner said.

Isner lost most of her index finger and the tendons of two other fingers were severely damaged.

"I've had like 12 surgeries at this point and sometimes I was doing hand therapies three times a week for months at a time,"

Isner now goes to college on the East Coast. She is a drummer and is still getting used to holding a drumstick in her injured hand. Isner said.

Police say sales of illegal fireworks have declined in recent years. They say it may have something to do with the economy.

A handful of Bay Area cities still allow the sale of "safe and sane" fireworks, but there is a renewed call to ban them in one community.

Booths that sell safe and sane fireworks have sprung up around San Bruno.

But some people fear the danger of them causing a fire could prove devastating for the neighborhood destroyed by last September's PG&E gas pipeline explosion, which is now overgrown with dry grass and construction materials.

San Bruno police say they have increased patrols to keep an eye out for anyone using illegal fireworks.

Cities Where "Safe and Sane" Fireworks are allowed:

  • Cloverdale
  • Dixon
  • Dublin
  • Gilroy
  • Newark
  • Pacifica
  • Petaluma
  • Rohnert Park
  • San Bruno
  • Seaside
  • Sebastopol
  • Union City
  • Watsonville


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