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Santa Maria looking for ways to combat illegal fireworks

Posted at 11:04 PM, Nov 13, 2018

Fireworks can be seen and heard throughout the year in Santa Maria, and some people want it to stop.

The city hosted the first of two meetings Tuesday to discuss illegal fireworks and how to manage the issue.

“When they go off, your house shakes,” said Cheri Imoe, a Santa Maria resident who is tired of hearing illegal explosive fireworks in the middle of the night.

These types of fireworks are banned in California, but many people still easily bring them in from out of state.

Imoe says she can hear and see them year-round, even as recently as three days ago.

It puts her and her dogs on edge.

“We find the debris in our yards and our animals, we have three dogs, our animals are shaking and hiding under the bed. We dare not let them outside the house,” added Imoe.

Loud noises, the mess left behind, and fire hazards are some of the concerns, but some neighbors are afraid to report the incidents because they don’t want to be blamed for getting someone in trouble.

Assistant city manager Patrick Wiemiller says illegal use is increasing.

“I think everyone is sensitive about the idea of fires with the fires that are happening around the state,” said Wiemiller. “Our local data though doesn’t show that we haven’t had any fires caused by fireworks.”

Right now Safe and Sane fireworks can only be sold in Santa Maria the week leading up to fourth of July. Then they can only be used from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on the actual holiday.

Many nonprofits like Rancho Junior Bowlers sell legal fireworks to fundraise.

“We pay their entry fee into the state youth bowling tournament, and we give a boy and a girl each a $300 scholarship each year,” said Lou Gilless, Rancho Junior Bowlers chairperson.

They argued the city should not ban all fireworks because it would take away from their revenue.

“We’d have to look elsewhere for some kind of a fundraiser, which we would probably not be able to raise the amount of money we raise this way,” added Gilless.

Suggestions like volunteer patrol groups, anonymous reporting and bigger fines came up at the meeting.

Educating the public on the difference between legal and illegal fireworks was a big take away.

The city hopes to find a middle ground with this.

The feedback from the meetings will be given to the city council, and council members can then determine if any changes should be made.

Another meeting will be held December 6 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Mussell Senior Center.