Merced County closer to legalizing fireworks in unincorporated areas

May 21, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
Merced County is now one step closer to legalizing the sale and use of fireworks in unincorporated areas. The change could happen in time for this Fourth of July.

Officials proposed the idea so non-profits in unincorporated areas like Planada can make money selling the fireworks. Firefighters say it would let them focus on stopping the more dangerous, illegal fireworks. But one supervisor says the move is too risky, especially with the dry conditions we have this year.

Fireworks and the Fourth of July go hand in hand. And this summer you could see the 'Safe and Sane' ones for sale in parts of Merced County where they've never been allowed before.

Division Chief Mark Lawson said, "The ordinance is intended to allow non-profits to sell in the unincorporated areas within specific time frames and to allow residents to use safe and sane fireworks between June 28th and July 4th annually."

The board of supervisors held a public hearing on the plan Tuesday morning.

Merced County Supervisor John Pedrozo said, "A few years ago this was brought up to me from some of my unincorporated areas of LeGrand. You have some of the non-profits that wanted to do the fireworks booth because they make so much money."

The Merced County Fire Department supports the idea because officials say it would allow them to focus their resources on illegal fireworks that pose the highest risk.

"We stand behind it for the simple fact that the numerous amount of responses we go to in unincorporated areas for fireworks related calls is overwhelming to the fire department," said Division Chief Lawson. "It overloads our 911 system, and we're responding to them around the clock."

Deidre Kelsey is the only supervisor who voted against the change. She's concerned it will cause more fires -- and cost the county too much money to fight them.

Kelsey said, "You're going to be rolling trucks in when there are fires that get away, and I think this is going to increase the incidents of fires, especially in my district, which is rural."

But firefighters feel they've done enough education and prevention work to minimize that risk -- and the $400.00 application fee to have a fireworks stand would pay for future fire prevention efforts and operations.

Supervisors voted to amend the current ordinance to allow for firework sales and use in unincorporated areas. But they still have to give it their final approval. That's expected to happen at the June fourth meeting. Permits to set up stands would be accepted through June 18th.


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