Fireworks spark caution in dry conditions
by Glenn Moore
Jun 18, 2014 | 4857 views | 6 6 comments | 32 32 recommendations | email to a friend | print
An illegal firework bursts over the downtown area in 2012.  Press file photo
An illegal firework bursts over the downtown area in 2012. Press file photo
The California State Fire Marshal safe and sane fireworks seal.
The California State Fire Marshal safe and sane fireworks seal.
The Tracy fire department does not have enough resources to combat the fire danger this Fourth of July.

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 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


Comments-icon Post a Comment
June 19, 2014
Funny but I think people are missing the point of this article.

What Division Chief Bramell is saying is the Fire Department doesn't have the resources to respond to the calls generated by the use of fireworks in Tracy.

This being said it begs the following questions;

If the use of fireworks increases the number of responses created for the fire department


the fire department doesn't have the resources to respond to this increased volume of responses

then why did the city push forward to allow the use of fireworks in the first place?

It seems to me like the city council made a very foolish decision in going along with the lobbyist who sold them on the idea they should legalize the use of fireworks, based on the potential revenue they would gain through permitting fees.

It further seems like the Safe and Sane manufactures, who have a sole source agreement with the city of Tracy, are the only ones who are winning in this situation.

Either that or the city is not allocating the additional revenue to fire department to offset the cost of the additional expenses created by the legalization of fire works in Tracy. Somebody should have done their homework.


June 19, 2014
just said no to the Safe and Sane people in the first place.

We would have been in a much better place, financially, if our illustrious mayor and city council had thought this out.
June 19, 2014
It is a shame that we have so many people that just won't take this advice. My home has been at risk from illegal fireworks for many years thanks to a rear neighbor. Surrounding neighbors will have their hoses ready... we're used to their exploding rockets landing in our yards... he just keeps getting away with it!
June 19, 2014
call it in! TPD would like to stop potential firestarters as much as you'd like to not have your house burnt down. I don't ever know where the war zones are...I can just hear them and hope that what goes up does not come down on my home.

personally...I think that we should not do fireworks this year...this state is nothing more than a tinder box and the idea of purposely allowing and shooting off things that start fires is just flat out crazy.
June 19, 2014

Sometimes I feel as if I am the only person in my neighborhood who expects a particular level of responsibility and decency from other neighbors. Illegal fireworks are ubiquitous in our neighborhood during this time of year and the same households launch large rockets for two or three hours on the 4th. I am also bothered by neighbors who leave their discharged fireworks discarded in the street. I know the addresses of a couple of neighbors who are in possession of illegal fireworks right now, but I'm tired of being considered a 'nark' and, frankly, my metaphysical views are considered abnormal.

As I say, keep feeding the cows to the dogs.
June 18, 2014
I'm a sucker for a good headline as it relates to the article, and this one fits the bill! Good job!

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