SACRAMENTO - In secret bunkers around the state, Cal Fire sits on roughly 300,000 pounds of illegal fireworks while it waits for funding to pay for proper disposal.
"We have seen more and more illegal fireworks come into California from neighboring states and even other countries," Cal Fire spokesman Daniel Berlant said.
Historically, fire officials simply burned illegal fireworks -- but environmental regulations today require more elaborate methods that involve shipping the fireworks out of state at a cost of about $6 per pound.
The Office of the State Fire Marshal will receive a one-time payment of $1.5 million from the state Department of Toxic Substances Control to clear out the backlog, but there's no stable funding source to deal with new seizures.
That includes 3,000 pounds of illegal fireworks confiscated last week by Contra Costa County authorities. The fireworks were posted for sale on Craigslist; three men were arrested.
"So, we store it for now until we can get the state involved to have them come and take it," Contra Costa County Fire Marshal Robert Marshall said. "It becomes problematic, especially when you're talking about a ton-and-a-half of fireworks."
A proposal to tax legal safe and sane fireworks 10 cents per pound stalled in the California Legislature this summer. Cal Fire estimates the tax would have covered the annual cost of fireworks disposal and provided funding for safety training.