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Alcohol, illegal fireworks mar July 4 celebration
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The number of illegal fireworks being lit up all over Ceres was so heavy that what was seized was small in comparison, admit public safety officials.

Ceres Fire Chief Brian Nicholes said his department issued a lot of warnings - but no citations - and seized approximately 15 pounds of illegal fireworks including mortars, firecrackers, bottle rockets and roman candles.

"There was more than I have ever seen in my life," said Nicholes of fireworks in the skies. "It was unbelievable, just so much."

If anything, the fireworks - the illegal and legal varieties - ended earlier this year, said Nicholes, because the Fourth fell on a Wednesday and many had to go to work the next day.

Ceres firefighters were called to a number of fires caused by illegal fireworks including grass and dumpster fires.

"Anything that flies or explodes has been in illegal in California for years," said Nicholes. Most of the illegal variety are purchased in other states, such as Nevada, or in Mexico and brought illegally across the state border.

"Some of this stuff is considered illegal explosives."

Last year Nicholes said an M-5000 explosive was seized last year which had the capability to kill or maim a person.

Most of the warnings and seizures were issued when fire department officials spotted fireworks being launched from front yards or city parks since backyard access is not permitted.

The sheer number of people blowing off safe and sane fireworks makes it impractical for fire engines to roll through neighborhoods for enforcements, Nicholes said.

In some cases, illegal fireworks were encouraged by people who had a little too much to drink.

"Unfortunately alcohol and fireworks don't mix well and people get braver and braver," said Nicholes.

Ceres police made several arrests for public intoxication on the holiday.

"We were busy dealing drunks," said Deputy Police Chief Mike Borges. "We had a lot of intoxicated people that night."

The department had no additional personnel on the streets on Wednesday because of budget constraints, Borges said.

A report of illegal fireworks in the 2000 block of Darrah Street sent police to the location. As an officer rolled down the street, resident Vicente Sanchez allegedly yelled obscenities and then ran into a house. The officer pursued Sanchez who continued yelling through a screen door, at times making reference to "Norte" (Spanish for Norteno) and threatening to shoot the officer. When it was announced that he was under arrest Sanchez refused to come out so officers went in to arrest him. Borges said three sets of handcuffs had to be used to detain Sanchez.

As that was happening police heard three gunshots up the street.

Police made an arrest for drunk driving at 2:26 a.m. the next morning in the 3000 block of Fowler Road. Maria Silveira, 44, of Ceres, was arrested and booked for DUI.

Another incident involved a domestic disturbance at 9:26 p.m. in the 2400 block of Roeding Road. Family members said that an intoxicated male who was causing problems had already left the scene. Israel Magana, 35, of Ceres, later showed up at Ceres Fire Station #1 intoxicated and belligerent. Magana was arrested for public drunkenness after scuffling with public safety employees.

Another arrest came at 9:53 p.m. when an on-duty battalion chief was traveling on Richland Avenue and two males walked in front of his vehicle, flipping him off. One of them, David Gutierrez, 26, of Ceres, was arrested for public drunkenness.