According to Division Chief Dave Bramell, drought conditions gripping the state aren’t the only problems the fire department will face this holiday.
“We know that fireworks are going to be a problem, as far as the number of illegal fireworks in use and the sheer number of fireworks discharged during that that week and specifically on the Fourth,” Bramell said. “We know that the amount of use will exceed our resources — we won’t be able to be on every corner at every home and every court telling people. We’re going to do our best and hold those we find accountable.”
The high heat, low humidity and high winds that have sounded Red Flag warnings through the state, including in San Joaquin County, have left areas with a high potential for grass fires.
“Every year, the grass cures entirely — it turns 100 percent dry— and will readily ignite,” Bramell said. “We have the same concerns every year when it comes to the holiday season and fireworks.”
Tracy is in the fourth year of safe and sane firework sales that begin in two weeks, on June 28. In Tracy city limits, residents can discharge only legal fireworks bearing the seal of the California State Fire Marshal. Illegal fireworks are typically anything that explodes, shoots into the air or doesn’t bear the California State Fire Marshal seal. (Read 12 safety tips below.)
With the Fourth of July holiday still three weeks away, illegal fireworks can already be heard booming in the evening hours, and Bramell urged caution.
“There is still a risk even when it’s not a Red Flag warning. Grass will readily ignite around here. Dry, old shingle roofs will readily ignite if people use illegal aerial fireworks,” Bramell said.
Bramell said there were several dry lots within city limits and the fire department had been trying get weeds cleared away in some of the problem areas to lessen the fire danger as the holiday draws near.
“We all know the wind conditions in Tracy. Anything that goes airborne has the potential to be blown onto somebody’s roof, blown over their home into a vacant lot or field behind them,” Bramell said.
Even though safe and sane fireworks are legal in Tracy, all kinds of fireworks remain illegal in Mountain House and in rural Tracy areas within San Joaquin County, including Banta and New Jerusalem.
Bramell said that on the Fourth of July, the fire department would add another engine company to help deal with the volume of calls and grass fires that usually begin at dusk. The fire department doesn’t have citation authority, Bramell said, but will work closely with the Tracy Police Department to confiscate illegal fireworks.
Safe and sane fireworks can be discharged only from noon to 10 p.m. June 28 through July 3 and from noon until midnight on the Fourth of July. Bramell said that using fireworks outside those times is a misdemeanor violation of city code.
All fireworks, including safe and sane types, become illegal to use within city limits on July 5.
If residents see someone using illegal fireworks and feel it is an immediate emergency, Bramell said, they should dial 911. Other complaints about fireworks can be reported using the non-emergency number of the local law enforcement agency: Tracy Police Department, 831-6550, or San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office, 468-4400.
Bramell said the California Health and Safety Code also regulates fireworks and could apply fines and penalties based on the quantity and type of illegal fireworks found.
The fire department isn’t trying to infringe on anyone’s right to celebrate Independence Day, Bramell said. He did urge residents to be aware of the surroundings and weather conditions when using fireworks.
“We’re concerned for the overall safety of the community,” Bramell said. “If there is some commonsense approach to the conditions, that will certainly help.”
• Contact Glenn Moore at firstname.lastname@example.org or 830-4252.
The Tracy Fire Department has several tips for safely using safe and sane fireworks for the Fourth of July.
• Have an adult present when using fireworks
• Assign a shooter to light fireworks who hasn’t consumed alcohol
• Light one firework at a time
• Keep a fire extinguisher or garden hose within 100 feet of the fireworks being discharged
• Use fireworks only outdoors and avoid placing them beneath an overhang
• Maintain a minimum 10-foot clearance from all homes or other buildings
• Place fountains or other spark-emitting fireworks upright on a concrete, asphalt or other hard surface
• Douse spent fireworks in a bucket of water before throwing them away
• Never point or throw fireworks at another person
• Do not place fireworks on any surface above ground level, such as on a ladder or stand
• Never hold lit fireworks
• Do not try to relight malfunctioning fireworks