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Local authorities are using drones to help crack down on illegal fireworks

Grover Beach Police Department shared a clip from the 4th of July last year. The aerial shot shows rounds of fireworks go off within seconds of each other.
Posted at 6:50 PM, Jun 29, 2023

As we approach the Fourth of July, police and fire departments across the Central Coast are gearing up to crack down on illegal fireworks.

Grover Beach Police Department shared a clip from the Fourth of July last year. The aerial shot shows rounds of fireworks go off within seconds of each other.

“Typically, fireworks that are illegal are those that leave the ground or those that make a very large boom or bang,” explained Commander Jim Munro with the Grover Beach Police Department.

The City of Grover Beach will be taking to the skies for the second year in a row to make sure the community is safe this holiday, thanks to the help of drones.

“We’re able to snap photos, we’re able to use the infrared system, which helps us locate individuals that possess illegal fireworks,” explained Grover Beach Police Officer Walid Elasyed as he maneuvered a drone.

Santa Maria Fire Department is also using drone technology to spot illegal activities.

“[It] can identify properties from high altitudes using [geographic information system] technology, and it will identify the assessor parcel number and the address of areas where we can identify launches,” said Fire Marshal Jim Austin with the Santa Maria Fire Department.

The City of Santa Maria released a video last year of one of their drone tests, which shows a display of illegal fireworks.

“That was one of the test dates and that was here in the city of Santa Maria and that is actual footage of violations occurring,” added Fire Marshal Austin.

The City of Paso Robles is also keeping an eye out for illegal fireworks users.

“We are going to have patrol units enforce all fireworks violations with citations,” said Operations Commander Tod Rehner with the Paso Robles Police Department. “There will be no warnings, and we will have drones in flight to ID violators. ”

While they might seem like a pretty aerial show, they are a threat to public safety.

“You cannot control where they land, they can land on roofs, they can land in vacant fields that have dry brush,” said Fire Marshal Austin. “They can hit people. ”

The noise can also trigger residents.

“You know, veterans, PTSD, along with animals, I know a lot of people have those concerns as well for the big, loud illegal fireworks,” said Commander Munro.

Last year on the Fourth of July, Paso Robles Police Department said they received 57 calls related to fireworks. According to San Luis Obispo Police Department, on that same date, they received 10 calls.

“We had about 122 fireworks calls in the City of Grover Beach,” added Commander Munro. “We did issue five citations; we issued quite a few warnings as well. ”

Fires were also reported in the Santa Maria area.

“There were 10 other fires that were vegetation and dumpster fires, and of those, we were confident that eight of them were related to fireworks,” said Fire Marshal Austin.

Depending on the city, fines could go up to $2,000. There is an option to get rid of illegal fireworks before the holiday, no questions asked. You just have to call your local police or fire department.

“We will take them off their hands, and we will dispose of them properly,” said Fire Marshal Austin.

Authorities are ask residents to not report illegal fireworks to 911 instead they want people to call their non-emergency lines.

List of non-emergency lines

  • San Luis Obispo PD: (805) 781-7312
  • SLO County Sheriff's Office: (805) 781-4550
  • Paso Robles PD: (805) 237-6464
  • Atascadero PD: (805) 461-5051
  • Santa Maria PD: (805) 928-3781
  • Grover Beach PD: (805) 473-4507
  • Arroyo Grande PD: (805) 473-5110