Illegal fireworks a costly problem for California

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Right now, about 300,000 pounds of fireworks are sitting in bunkers across California.

Illegal fireworks are a costly problem California officials say is getting worse. Right now, about 300,000 pounds of fireworks are sitting in bunkers across California. There are so many fireworks that the state doesn't have room for any more even though the busiest confiscation time -- july 4th -- is still a coupl e of days away.

Years ago, fire officials say they would find bottle rockets or roman candles. Now they're finding commercial grade fireworks in people's cars -- dangerous, especially in this drought.

"Though they're marketed as fireworks, they are dangerous and we have to dispose of them properly," Cal Fire spokesperson Daniel Berlant said.

That means sending them out of state or incinerating the unstable ones. Both options are costly.

The new budget just allotted $1.5 million to get rid of the current stockpile. In the meantime, local jurisdictions must now sit on the fireworks they find because they don't have room for more.

"We've got these dangerous goods, they're explosives, we're putting them into residential neighborhoods and storing them there and no one is coming to get them," Contra Costa County Fire Marshal Robert Marshall said.

Just last week, Contra Costa County fire investigators confiscated about 3,000 pounds of fireworks. They're hoping this bust will help prevent a repeat of last Fourth of July.

"We had no units to send to the new fires," fire investigator Vic Massenkoff said. "There were so many fires, all of them caused by these types of dangerous fireworks."

A bill proposing a tax of 10 cents per pound on safe and sane fireworks has stalled in the state legislature. If passed, the tax would help pay for regular disposal of illegal fireworks.

Jennifer Mallari supports the tax, but she feels her kids will only be safe from illegal fireworks when customers change.

"One out of 10 customers are looking for something that flies in the air or roman candles," Mallari said.

Both of those are illegal.
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