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Fourth of July already? Illegal fireworks keep Sacramento up all night.

If you are hearing fireworks before June 28, they were probably purchased illegally.

SACRAMENTO, Calif — Independence Day may still be days away, but many people are hearing the familiar crack, whistle, and pop of fireworks in their neighborhood. Now, local police departments are warning residents that fireworks season is upon us.

"We are in the beginning of the Fourth of July season where the department does begin to see fireworks related complaints," said the Sacramento Police Department (SPD) in a statement to ABC10.

Many Fourth of July fireworks shows have been cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, and that leaves celebrators in the lurch when it comes to spectacular explosions. 

With the pandemic keeping many indoors, it seems that some are trying to break out of their quarantine rut by lighting up the skies with a variety of colorful combustibles.

However, fireworks that are going off in the air around Sacramento are illegal. 

"Safe and Sane" fireworks (a.k.a. fireworks that do not leave the ground) are the only kind that are legal in the city of Sacramento. Legally purchasing "Safe and Sane" fireworks in the area is limited a tight window of noon on June 28 to 10 p.m. on July 4.

In an interview with ABC10, CEO of Revell Communications Dennis Revell, spoke on behalf of TNT Fireworks to explain why illegal fireworks have become such a large issue today.

“So many California communities are experiencing a rampant use of illegal fireworks, especially in cities where no fireworks are allowed, because until recently, little or nothing was being done to stop the interdiction of these illegal, dangerous items into California," Revell said. "As a result, local jurisdictions have become not only the ‘first line of defense’, but the ‘only line of defense’ against illegal fireworks."

Revell went on to explain that thwarting illegal firework smuggling requires a level of enforcement personnel that local budgets just cannot support.

The time frame is so strict that firework booths are not even allowed to begin operating until noon June 28 in an attempt to curb illegal firework use. 

TNT Fireworks plans to open their stands on this date with social distancing guidelines firmly in place.

The state of California does not permit online sales of fireworks, so that means the only time to legally buy fireworks in anticipation of the Fourth of July is the June 28 to July 4 window.

Unfortunately, it seems illegal firework smuggling has already infiltrated the city of Sacramento, as some people report seeing the bright pyrotechnics in the sky.

Revell says that illegal fireworks come into the United States primarily through four Western ports— Oakland, Long Beach, Los Angeles, and Seattle. 

The state-approved fireworks industry and the U.S. Department of Transportation have long argued with the state that there are operations picking up product that is illegal in California (such as fireworks) to seemingly be transported to a state where that product is legal.

"Instead, these products are drop-shipped to locations here in California," Revell said. "In recent years, there have been major seizures of illegal fireworks, particularly in Southern California warehouses, that have ranged from 15 to 25 tons each which were drop-shipments from one of the two Southern California ports."

This is nothing new either, but rather the culmination of years of somewhat lax enforcement. 

"For the better part of the last two decades, there has been no border integrity or inspections for illegal fireworks like there used to be," Revell said. "As a result, there are both hordes of individual criminal entrepreneurs as well large commercial operations smuggling these dangerous illegal fireworks into this state without fear of being caught or suffering any criminal consequences."

According to Revell, one such operation "openly brags" about its success, claiming to make "somewhere in the neighborhood of $5 million each year from illegal fireworks sales in Los Angeles County alone.”

Illegal fireworks can be extremely dangerous to the public.

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)more than twice as many fires are reported on the Fourth of July than on any other day of the year in the United States. Nearly 90% of emergency room fireworks injuries involve "Safe and Sane" fireworks that were used incorrectly.

It is also important to keep in mind that fireworks at odd hours of the night are not only a noisy nuisance. 

It is also an issue for animals who might be frightened by the lights and sounds and people with post traumatic stress disorder [PTSD], particularly veterans. Fireworks sometimes closely resemble gunfire and explosions, which can trigger a PTSD episode. 

The opportunity to buy legal, safe fireworks is right around the corner. 

Revell anticipates an uptick in TNT Firework sales, due in no small part to the coronavirus pandemic. 

“Widespread cancellations of public events, sporting games, concerts, fairs, and community fireworks celebrations in many communities across the state, means family backyard celebrations using State-Approved Fireworks will be the only safe and responsible option available to most Californians," Revell said. 

Revell acknowledges, however, that in the absence of public displays and state-approved firework shows, locals will likely gravitate to illegal fireworks. As such, it is important that Californians stay safe and use fireworks responsibly.

When lighting "Safe and Sane" fireworks:

  • Do not use fireworks near dry grass or other combustible material.
  • Do not use fireworks while under a canopy, covered balcony, covered patio, or under a tree or bushes.
  • Light fireworks from the ground, not on elevated surfaces.
  • Never attempt to re-light or "fix" fireworks.
  • Always place used fireworks in a bucket of water to fully extinguish (drain water onto landscaping before going into the trash).
  • Have a garden hose ready.

Since SPD receives a lot of calls for illegal fireworks during this time, the department is asking residents to report all issues with ongoing illegal firework activity to be emailed to fireworks@pd.cityofsacramento.org. 

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