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CPD planning illegal fireworks crackdown effort
Illegal fireworks at curb
Lighting illegal fireworks like these can net you a $2,500 fine in Ceres. - photo by JEFF BENZIGER/ Courier file photo

With the fire season already off to an ominous start, the Ceres Police Department is trying to get ahead of the Fourth of July holiday by warning that getting caught firing off bottle rockets and mortars and lighting the fuses on M-80s firecrackers, means a $2,500 administrative fine.

Last year local fire departments dealt with an overload of grass and structure fires because of illegal fireworks.  

Ceres Police Chief Perry feels the threat of a whopping fine stops some but many still risk the cost.

“People throw their parties during that time and they have a lot of people over and they probably get a hold of illegal fireworks in some fashion and they’re going to do what they want to do and risk getting the fine or not,” said Chief Perry. “One year we actually had one guy tell us that spends $10,000 on fireworks and Fourth of July is his favorite holiday of the year and he’ll go ahead and take a fine. He was going to proceed with his celebration.”

Illegal fireworks during the Fourth of July period often tax the resources of fire crews. Last year, Fire Chief Kevin Wise said firefighters raced from call to call putting out grass and structure fires.  Altogether, Modesto Fire responded to 274 calls for the 24 hours between 7 a.m. on July 4, 2023 and 7 a.m. on July 5, 2023 in Modesto, Ceres, Salida and Oakdale. That included 65 fires, eight structure fires, 41 vegetation fires and 16 trash fires. Most of the fires were in backyards, vacant fields, fences, trees and trash cans in areas where there was a heavy show of aerial fireworks.

Chief Perry said his department will beef up patrols on July 3 through Saturday, July 6 trying to catch people setting off illegal fireworks. Any firework that does not display the California “safe and sane” identification or anything that launches into the sky or explodes is an illegal firework.

A special hotline (209-538-LOUD or 209-538-5683) will be manned for reports of illegal fireworks to keep the main 911 emergency line from being clogged. The special line will be staffed by police Records Division personnel. Reports of illegal fireworks may also be emailed to from July 1 through Thursday, July 4.

Safe and sane fireworks – those that don’t leave the ground or explode – remain legal in Ceres and Stanislaus County.

The illegal fireworks that make their way into California are smuggled in from other states where they are legally sold. They include Nevada, Utah, Texas, Montana, Oklahoma, South and North Dakota, Nebraska and Iowa. Some also come across the U.S.-Mexico border.

In 2017, the Ceres City Council adopted an ordinance in an attempt to curb the proliferation of illegal fireworks. It provided for an administrative penalty of $1,000 per violation which was later stiffened to $2,500.

Last year 18 persons in Ceres were cited for setting off illegal fireworks and fined $2,500.

In 2019 the Ceres Police Department issued 53 citations, 39 in 2020, 34 in 2021 and 15 in 2022.

The approaching holiday with its nearly certain barrage of loud explosions and aerial fireworks – illegal in California – is causing anxiety in local pet owners, veterans, senior citizens and other sensitive persons.

Military veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD can experience high levels of anxiety from the loud bangs and flashes during the patriotic holiday.

Pets also often experience trauma. Experts say the simplest way to minimize stress among cats and dogs is to keep them indoors and away from windows. Closing the blinds and curtains in rooms also can keep bright flashes from scaring pets.