Ask any resident of Ceres and they’re apt to tell you the use of illegal fireworks was more out of hand this year despite a stepped-up enforcement of laws against their use.
Ceres wasn’t alone in the problem. Cities throughout the Valley and California experienced high levels of people lighting fuses of illegal fireworks. At least two homes in Modesto caught fire Saturday evening, likely due to illegal fireworks. One fire damaged a two-story on Cheyenne Way with flames igniting a neighboring home on Rodeo Circle.
This year Ceres Police Department stepped up its crackdown of illegal fireworks – anything that leaves the ground or explodes is against the law – but citations fell short of last year’s number. The city issued a total of 39 citations from July 1 to July 5, subjecting violators to a $1,000 fine. The most citations were issued on Saturday when 25 felt the sting of being written up. Eight were cited on Friday and five on Sunday.
By comparison during last year’s inaugural campaign to get residents to stop using fireworks, the city issued 43 citations.
Captain Patrick Crane theorized that some people were trying to avoid citations by blowing off illegal fireworks in less conspicuous ways.
“People were starting to go in their backyards to launch them off so we couldn’t identify which house it came from,” said Crane. “And they were being a little bit more sporadic about it so they just weren’t setting them off, setting them off, setting them off. They would set them off and then they would wait a while before they set another one off.”
He said some launched illegal fireworks from fields or remote locations and leaving in a hurry.
“So that made it a little bit harder for us,” said Captain Crane.
Ceres Police had three two-man cars cruising around just responding to fireworks on Saturday night. Added to that was a two-man undercover car trying to identify addresses where people were blowing off rockets or igniting small explosives. The six extra personnel were in addition to the five regular patrol officers on duty Saturday.
Because firefighters were busy answering grass and structure fire calls inside and outside of Ceres, they were unable to do any enforcement this year as they did last year.
“They were stretched too thin so we had no fire out there issuing citations either. Fire didn’t do any citations where last year fire had six.”
The city’s special hotline (538-LOUD) for reporting the use of illegal firework was busy with 96 calls from June 29 to Sunday, July 5. For the first year of using the Nail’em smartphone app, Ceres Police received 170 reports.
A total of 385 calls were logged from hotline calls, 231 emails and Nail’em app complaints.
In total, the city fielded 1,416 total calls for police dispatch from June 29 through July 5.
Captain Crane said the extra reporting messages freed up calls to the dispatch center.
Crane theorized that the use was heavier this year because of the COVID-19 lockdown, because the Fourth fell on Saturday and because of fireworks shows being cancelled.
“This is only the second year of our fireworks campaign and it’s going to take several years before we can start changing the behavior of people.
Ceres Police were unable to use their drone because of technical difficulties.