The Clovis, Fresno and Fresno County fire departments put on a fireworks demonstration Thursday morning at the Clovis Fire Department Training Center to show the potentially tragic effects of using fireworks incorrectly or illegally.
The Clovis fire department built a mock shed with a garbage bin and brush close to the structure and then shot fireworks into the brush. In less than two minutes, the brush went up in flames, the trash bin to melted and the structure was engulfed in flames.
The local fire departments caution the community every year that dry grass, hot weather and combustibles create an extra hazard, said Clovis Fire Chief Mike Despain.
Another issue in addition to the heightened hazard is the use of illegal fireworks.
"If it explodes or leaves the ground, then it's illegal," Despain said.
Using illegal fireworks is deemed a criminal act, but rather than going to court, the fire department gives $1,000 to $1,250 tickets to violators.
Fire departments will take any illegal fireworks, no questions asked, as part of its amnesty program, Despain said.
There are roughly 800 to 1,000 fires a year in Fresno and 400 in Clovis, Despain said. About 10% of the fire departments' workload is during the July 4th holiday week.
The fire departments really depend on the public, especially parents, to take the lead, said Fresno Fire battalion chief Richard Cabral.
Children shouldn't be setting off fireworks, but should still be supervised and parents should be making adult decisions to ensure safety in the community, he said.
Fireworks are used to celebrate Independence Day, Cabral said, "but sometimes if used incorrectly they can have tragic results."
Legal vs. illegal fireworks
Must be all of the following to be legal:
- Purchases made at a fireworks stand with a permit
- Fireworks with the Safe and Sane label
- Only permitted between 7 a.m. and midnight June 28 to July 6
- Must be set off in a controlled safety zone, such as parks, schools and flood control sites with the consent of the governing body
- Other supervised sites include driveways and cul-de-sacs
- Discharged at least 30 feet from a structure or vehicle
- Any fireworks that leave the ground or explode, even if it has a Safe and Sane label
- Fireworks that impede vehicles or pedestrians
- No fireworks are allowed east of the Friant-Kern Canal, west of I-5 and in the River Bluff area of Fresno because of the risk of vegetation fires
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