City issues 3 fines for illegal sparkles

July 11, 2013 

cpride@losbanosenterprise.com

Three $1,250 fines were handed out for illegal fireworks during Independence Day last week.

"As far as the illegal stuff, we're seeing a little bit more of it every year," Fire Chief Chet Guintini said.

Fireworks were banned in Los Banos in 1980 and legalized in 2005, when the city decided the possibility of fire was no longer as great. In the eight years since residents have been able to buy "Safe and Sane" pyrotechnics, public safety officials have issued regular warnings against using illegal fireworks.

However, the admonishments don't always work. Guintini said one year 21 citations for illegal fireworks were issued. He said there were only three this year because of a lack of available resources.

"I think we could've been a lot more active out there, but it was hard for the officers to do there job and keep up with the illegal fireworks also," Guintini said.

The Police Department planned to use undercover officers and law enforcement in uniform to saturate the week of the Fourth of July. Cmdr. Ray Reyna Jr. said the department scheduled a regular patrol shift for the holiday, which is paid for through the overtime budget.

"We had a full shift," Reyna said. "We are not only responding to fireworks calls, but we were responding to other general calls we received that night."

Police received 34 calls about fireworks on July 4.

Reyna said it was not a scheduling mishap that prevented more citations from being issued, but rather a fire call that blocked the ability of fire and police personnel to team up.

Guintini said his department did respond to a grass fire and a trash can fire.

"In the trash can fire, what happened was people put their spent "Safe and Sane" legal fireworks in the trash can without putting them in a bucket of water first. It lit the trash can on fire and then the fence," Guintini said.

No one was hurt in either fire, he said. Guintini said he would like to have better coordination next year.

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