Illegal Fireworks Crackdown

July 2, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
Visalia firefighters gave Action News an explosive demonstration of just how deadly an illegal firework could be if you get too close to it. The head of a wooden dummy was literally blown off. The metal fragments of the firework were blasted apart and some of the metal sticks even flew off. Visalia Fire Marshall and Battalion Chief Charles Norman said, "They're exploding projectile which means most people underestimate the time it takes to light the firework."These are some of the illegal fireworks firefighters will be looking for when they're out patrolling neighborhoods this weekend. Many are brought in from out of state. Chief Norman said, "In conjunction with the Visalia Police Department, we are putting together a task force. Several members of the police and fire departments will be going out and confiscating, citing and possibly even arresting but the bottom line is we want to get the message out. We want to try and prevent these from happening."

Legal fireworks stay on the ground and don't explode. But Chief Norman said sometimes people become too hungry for a larger explosion. A legal firework can become illegal when it's wrapped with other fireworks or tampered with in any way. Take this homemade Pepsi bottle firework. Pieces of burnt, melted plastic from the bottle are all that's left of it.

As firefighters mop up the fires started from the explosions, they're reminded of how tragic these illegal fireworks can be. Jim Smith, an engineer with the Visalia Fire Department said, "They can get into structures, we lose houses. Of course, with dry grass out here there's a lot of potential for a lot of damage."

Firefighters say sparks from large explosions land on the roofs of houses, burning them down. Last year, they had to put out six structure fires from fireworks explosions. Chief Norman said, "Dinuba had an incident last year where an explosive device took out the hand of an individual. We've had people in the past that have lost eyes."

Norman says people who make or set illegal fireworks can be charged with a felony. The consequence is up to $10,000 in fines and two years in prison.


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