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Santa Maria community speaks up about illegal fireworks, officers begin undercover patrols

Posted at 9:15 PM, Jun 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-20 01:27:47-04

The kickoff to summer is Saturday and already the celebrations have begun as firework stands have hit the streets of Santa Maria, but it's the illegal fireworks that can cost violators pricey penalties.

On June 8, the Santa Maria Police Department shared a photo showing dozens of illegal fireworks that have been confiscated.

The use of illegal fireworks is a problem every summer, but the Santa Maria Fire Department said this year it could be worse.

Fire Captain Seth Wells said with no city-held fireworks show this year, he expects a rise in the fireworks on the Fourth of July.

"I think due to you know, everybody's been stuck at home. I understand. We're all cooped up. We're gonna start to go crazy," Cpt. Well said.

The Santa Maria Police Department said it has additional teams of officers that are strictly assigned to the firework response. The new effort includes teams of marked officers in uniform with patrol cars, as well as spotters that are unmarked.

Lt. Mark Streker said when they start getting complaints, the more officers on duty helps the department to narrow in on their locations.

Last year, 33 citations for illegal fireworks were issued that cost $1,000 a piece.

“There's zero tolerance, and we'll do it again this year," Streker said, adding that the department has already seen an uptick in dispatch calls about the use of illegal fireworks.

Many community members also voiced their concerns regarding safety.

“The only concern I have though is last year there was a fire that started in the house next door. I think somebody in the neighborhood was doing fireworks and maybe it landed, had hit the tree," Santa Maria resident Stacia Lopez said. "Their house actually lit on fire and they had to redo the whole thing.”

Another Santa Maria resident and Marine Corps. Veteran Richard Villegas said that even the sound of fireworks can spark unwanted memories.

“That kind of scares you a little bit," Villegas said.