Pyrotechnics for purchase

Sales of safe-and-sane fireworks are legal inside Tracy city limits through the Fourth of July.

It may be time for the city and citizens of Tracy to reconsider the cost and consequences of permitting fireworks in our community.

Let’s begin with the statistics: The city licenses nine nonprofit or not-for-profit organizations to sell safe-and-sane fireworks every Fourth of July. Of the 482 incorporated cities in California, 186 have banned the sale and use of fireworks — even the safe-and-sane variety — within their borders. Fireworks are illegal in the unincorporated areas of 44 of 58 counties, including San Joaquin.

The City Council approved the sale of fireworks by a 4-1 vote in May 2011. That first year, several charities made around $30,000 after expenses. In 2012, gross sales fell between $28,000 and $90,000. The earnings have fallen off somewhat since then, but the weeklong sales still bring in a lot of money.

There are also costs associated with allowing fireworks in town.

This year, between June 28 and July 5, Tracy police officers responded to 226 citizen complaints involving fireworks. On July 4, Tracy firefighters responded to 18 calls between 6 p.m. and midnight. Of those, 11 — 10 grass fires and one house fire — were attributed to fireworks.

The cacophony of fireworks being set off also takes a toll on veterans. Several homes in the community were marked with yard signs explaining that a combat veteran lived there and asking neighbors to please not set off fireworks.

The explosions also lead to a big problem with lost pets. On Sunday morning, the Tracy Animal Shelter had 79 calls on its voicemail from people whose pets had run away, startled by the fireworks. Eleven of those animals ended up at the shelter, and as of Tuesday, only four had been claimed and were back home.

The calls above represent problems created by illegal and legal products. Because Tracy has made sales and possession of certain fireworks legal, those using illegal fireworks are harder to track down. In fact, on July 4, police officers issued two warnings and made no arrests in the 95 fireworks-related calls.

The house fire mentioned above was sparked by an illegal aerial firework landing on a shake roof. The threat to property is very real, especially when a drought has made tinder of the vegetation throughout town.

Chief Gary Hampton, who said both public safety departments were stretched thin by citywide use of fireworks, has ordered a five-year review of the safe-and-sane fireworks policy and expects to present it to the council in September.

We respect that city leaders wanted to help local nonprofits who care for people and animals in need. But we believe the city has a broader responsibility to the majority of residents who just want to celebrate our independence in peace and safety. If they move now and inform the charitable organizations that this will be the last year of legal fireworks sales, those groups will have ample time to find other ways to tap into the generosity of Tracy residents.

Contact the Tracy Press editorial board at tpletters@tracypress.com or 835-3030.

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(2) comments

M209T

I wrote a letter to the editor in 2011 to voice my concern about the sale of so-called "safe and sane" fireworks. Letters from other citizens go back to at least 2008. For years this has clearly been a concern in our town and "our hands are tied" is not an acceptable response. Perhaps the town officials, educators, police and fire departments can work to develop and implement a "zero tolerance" plan. The mass discharge of illegal fireworks is not an issue in all communities. It's time we joined the ranks of those communities. I lived in the north and east bay areas for years and never encountered the chaos that occurs in Tracy. We can and should reach out to other communities for answers to resolve this issue. I am saddened by not being able to enjoy this great holiday for the past 18 years because I live in a town that turns into an unsafe and unstable state of anarchy every year.

newtotracy

have to say I agree, except that people who want to break the law will do so. if it makes it easier for TPD to do something about violators, great...but a lady up the road from me caught kids on the roof of a school throwing illegal fireworks into the tall dead grass...TPD released them to their parents with no repercussions and now the lady who caught them gets harassed by the parents of the kids for being nosy.

this was easily the worst 4th I've lived through (over 40 of them)...I truly feel for vets and animals, because I have no reason to be stressed but I was on edge all night...including the lovely 3 am barrage from over by St Bernard's somewhere. I heard fire trucks from about 6 until midnight pretty steadily...

I feel for the police, but perhaps if TPD became known as a bit more strict, we'd have a little more of a show of respect for laws? I see too many warnings and not enough citations...

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