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How locals can celebrate the 4th safely & legally
• City official offer amnesty collection of illegal fireworks
Fireworks booths are all over Ceres and offer the traditional safe and sane way to celebrate the Fourth. This year the city of Ceres is launching a wide scale effort to catch users of illegal fireworks. - photo by Jeff Benziger

Ceres residents may want to think twice about setting off aerial fireworks with this year’s well-publicized crackdown and celebrate the Fourth of July by heading out of town for fun events.

Ceres has not had a parade or fireworks show in decades but Modesto and Turlock both have planned celebrations.

In answer to widespread complaints over the past several years about illegal fireworks, the city of Ceres last month announced its zero tolerance crackdown of what may seem like fun to many but is illegal contraband. At the May 28 Ceres City Council meeting, Ceres Police Chief Rick Collins and Fire Chief Kevin Wise jointly presented details on a task force to combat illegal fireworks. The mission is to educate the public on the dangers of illegal fireworks as well as enforce a zero tolerance policy for the use, possession, or sale of dangerous or illegal fireworks.

Included in part of the effort is a Fireworks Surrender Event where those with illegal fireworks can turn in their contraband without questions or prosecution. The event started Monday and Tuesday and continues today, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the downtown Ceres Fire Station, 2755 Third Street. The amnesty program will provide residents a safe and convenient way to dispose of illegal fireworks while also avoiding the risk of facing thousands of dollars in fines and criminal charges. All fireworks are being accepted today with no questions asked. Only fireworks will be accepted at this event.

In California, anything that explodes – like firecrackers or M-80's – or leaves the ground – such as bottle rockets and aerial fireworks – are illegal to possess and ignite.

“Our message is zero tolerance and be a good neighbor,” said Fire Chief Wise.

Over the years the use of illegal fireworks has grown, causing problems for police and fire. Between June 29 and July 7, 2018, Ceres Police Department responded to 59 firework related calls for service with the majority being illegal aerial fireworks.

An educational video featuring Ceres Fire Chief Kevin Wise and Ceres Police Chief Richard Collins has been published on social media. The city also printed up posters, flyers, yard signs and banners to get out the message. 

In an effort to reduce calls to 911, a special illegal fireworks hotline has been set up at (209) 538-5683, or 538-LOUD, and an email address to report illegal fireworks use at Residents are encouraged to use the hotline or email address to report illegal fireworks – and not call 911 – on July 4, 5 and 6 from 9 a.m. to midnight. In the event a call is not answered, a message may be left. Messages left on the phone and email hotlines will be checked periodically throughout the day and night.

Extra patrols of police officers and firefighters will team together with the specific task of responding to illegal fireworks calls on July 4. When not responding to calls, police and fire will be out looking for those using illegal fireworks. Those caught using illegal fireworks will be issued citations with fines starting at $1,000.

According to the National Fire Protection Association fireworks start an average of 18,500 fires per year, including 1,300 structure fires, 300 vehicle fires, and 16,900 outside and other fires. These fires caused an average of three deaths, 40 civilian injuries, and an average of $43 million in direct property damage.

In 2015, U.S. hospital emergency rooms treated an estimated 11,900 people for fireworks related injuries; 51 percent of those injuries were to the extremities and 41 percent were to the head. Children younger than 15 years of age accounted for one-quarter (26 percent) of the estimated 2015 injuries.

A Turlock tradition will hit the streets once again when the annual Fourth of July Parade & Car Show returns. Because of Turlock city budget constraints and construction projects, the city of Turlock and Stanislaus State have cancelled the traditional annual fireworks show.

In a celebration of America’s military, cars holding veterans from Turlock’s Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5059 and the American Legion Post 88 will be the main attraction during the parade, joined by other community floats which will participate. Air Force veteran and Turlock Police Lt. Neil Cervenka will serve as the parade’s Grand Marshal, and will kick off the parade alongside a very special group.

Following the parade, which begins at 10 a.m. July 4 along Main Street, there will be a car show and street faire until 2 p.m. Turlock-native food trucks like Tito’s Tacos & Grill, TRND Foods, Rub BBQ and Grilling, Kraving Kebab Pizza and Rita’s Italian Ice will be on hand to keep attendees cool and full as they check out a show featuring over 80 classic cars, and a seated area with shade will be provided for diners. 

While some restaurants in the middle of the action will be closed on the day of the event, like Dust Bowl and Memo’s, plenty will be open, Jensen said. Hauck’s Grill will welcome patrons, as the parade is typically their biggest day of sales for the year, according to the restaurant. Ten East will also keep their doors open, and donate half of their parking lot to the parade. 

Other Fourth of July events taking place in the region for those who would like a weekend full of festivities:

The McHenry Mansion will host an Independence Day celebration that will include self-guided tours of the historic Victorian home beginning at 8:30 a.m. and allow spectators of Modesto’s 145th annual parade to designate chairs and blankets along the street in front of the mansion. The McHenry Visitor Center & Gift Store located at 924 15th Street, will be open between 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and is hosting a 40 percent discount on all Fourth of July merchandise. Visitors are welcome to browse the shop and watch a brief historic video depicting highlights of the McHenry family, early Modesto and the mansion.

• The 24th annual Fireworks Celebration at Woodward Reservoir, presented by the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors, will be held on Friday, July 5. The display will begin at approximately 9:30 p.m. and the county recommends arriving early to secure a spot.