Visalia bumps up fines for illegal fireworks

FRESNO, Calif.

California has had its "safe and sane" ban on fireworks for years now, but every Fourth of July some residents ignore the ban and smuggle-in illegal fireworks from other states.

So this year city officials are issuing you a warning - if you chose to use the outlawed items you could be hit harder in the wallet.

Firefighters say illegal fireworks can cause big problems, including a recent fire in the City of Visalia.

"We had a bottle rocket set off on the northside of town, landed in a palm tree and started the palm tree on fire and then we had some fall out from that fire that was landing on roofs," Darrin Hughes of the Visalia Fire Department said.

So firefighters plan to be out this holiday cracking down on illegal fireworks.

"They're very dangerous. Anything that goes up in the air and goes boom," Hughes said.

Several extra crews will work with the Visalia Police Department to go after people lighting off illegal fireworks. And they're getting some help from city leaders.

On June 18 the Visalia City Council unanimously approved to increase the fine for possessing illegal fireworks from $100 to $500.

It's a move people Action News talked with seemed to support.

"If it keeps someone from getting their house burned or getting hurt, then it's well worth it," Fernando Saenz of Visalia said.

Fire officials say the best way to avoid being cited is to use "safe and sane" fireworks sold at city-approved booths. There you can by fireworks like Litt'e Red Devils and Purple Haze and the proceeds go towards local nonprofit organizations.

"This is our only major fundraiser for the church and so it helps our bottom line," Tim Cope of the Goshen Church of God said.

Cope is the manager of a booth on Mooney Blvd. He says it's also a great way to keep your family safe while still putting on a great show.

"The safe and sane fireworks, the companies have really bumped up their products, making it appealing to those who want something a little more exciting," Cope said.

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