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Chief: more public education needed to curb illegal fireworks
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A rash of gunfire, illegal fireworks and fires prompted Ceres Police Chief Art deWerk to voice the need for more public education to reduce the "disappointing" effects of the evening.

DeWerk said his officers reported more of the dramatic illegal aerial fireworks than in years past.

"I personally heard a lot of gunfire, a whole lot of shotguns, handguns and rifles," said deWerk. "The media and local law enforcement agencies are trying to discourage that activity but it ... really didn't sound good that night ... I was very fearful for stray bullets hitting our firefighters and cops and citizens."

He suggested possibly implementing detection technology to triangulate where illegal fireworks are being launched.
"I don't know how effective they are but at minimum the public needs more education," said deWerk.

A number of small fires were reported in Ceres, but even more in the county.

"It was a particularly challenging night," deWerk told the Ceres City Council last week. "What makes this last Fourth of July a bit different is that it's somehow connected to two budget years ago when I, on behalf of the fire service, said that we would explore resource sharing and eventually look at ... ‘boundary dropping.' It's not fully implemented but on the Fourth of July there were so many calls - there was a two-alarm fire in Modesto - and the system really came together to service the public in ways that it could not have prior to the resource sharing arrangements that have been implemented by the deputy fire chief and the captains and the colleagues throughout the county. It was just a very impressive way of filling gaps where certain fire stations throughout the county, including ours, were 100 percent deployed."

DeWerk said the arrangement still has more work to be done but noted that dismissing the notion of being "territorial" is not the best use of taxpayer money.