The 4th of July holiday festivities are in full swing across the Central Coast which also means law enforcement is out in full force, cracking down on the illegal use of fireworks throughout Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties.
After years of complaints about illegal firework use, the City of Santa Maria is kicking things up a notch, officially launching its new drone system. The aircraft will be patrolling the skies at 1,500 to 3,000 feet, waiting to capture illegal launches with its GPS locating software and camera, which will then lead to a ticket.
"We have to have video evidence of a launch on a specific property that we can tie it to a parcel number. From there, we can issue a citation to the occupant or the owner of the property," explained Chief Todd Tuggle, Santa Maria Fire Department.
In a drought-stricken California, the main concern for fire crews is the unpredictability of flammable materials hitting the extremely dry ground. Local fire agencies are heavily staffed, keeping their eyes peeled and taking a proactive approach.
"The fireworks that we're concerned about are the ones that leave the ground in an uncontrolled fashion. So you can park anywhere and see these things going off. So we would drive through that area to see if we can catch someone doing it," said Adan Orozco, CAL FIRE San Luis Obispo Public Information Officer.
When a firework is launched into the air, the metal that is used to create that really nice show burns between 1,500 and 2,000 degrees. When pyrotechnics are used outside of a controlled environment, there’s no plan for where that hot molten metal will land.
The work isn’t just day-of for local law enforcement. CAL FIRE has a law enforcement team that is busy making busts pre and even post-4th of July.
"We'll get tips that people are bringing fireworks in from out of state and sometimes those tips pay off and we're able to locate those fireworks before the 4th of July and sometimes even after," Orozco explained.
The few minutes of fun is not worth the misdemeanor and up to $2,000 fine that comes with it, not to mention the possibility that you could be the cause of a vegetation fire.
While Safe and Sane fireworks are allowed in certain cities, that’s not the case everywhere, so make sure to know your area's regulations.
If you live in an area where Safe and Sane fireworks are allowed, fire crews say to still use caution. Don’t let kids use them unattended, have a bucket of water nearby, or just go to a professional show.