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Illegal fireworks cause damage to structures, keep firefighters busy
Drone at El Rematito
A Sheriff’s Department canine officer watches a spectacular drone fireworks display on Crows Landing Road across the street from El Rematito Flea Markert on the Fourth. - photo by Photo courtesy of the Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department

Despite threats of getting nailed with a $2,500 fine after getting caught setting off illegal fireworks, it was anything but quiet on the Fourth of July in Ceres.

Not only were firefighters busy throughout the night and police attending to a serious car crash that seriously injured a man, social media was on fire with comments about the barrage of explosions and mortar rockets shooting off.

Modesto Fire Chief Kevin Wise told the Ceres City Council on Monday that the night of the Fourth was very busy in Ceres and other cities served by his agency. Firefighters responded to 43 calls for service that day when the average is 16 to 20 calls.

Two structure fires were attended to and 11 vegetation fires were put out. Chief Wise said many were caused by illegal fireworks.

The worst fire involved a structure in the area of Arthur Way which caused about $160,000 in damage. Wise said “it was very probable that it was due to illegal fireworks catching cypress trees on fire and spreading into the structure.”

Ceres Police Chief Chris Perry said his officers were very busy but in an effort to hold down overtime costs, only one two-officer unit was on the streets four days solely devoted to catching those igniting illegal fireworks. As a result, only six administrative fines with $2,500 fines were issued.

“On July 4th alone, just during the night shift, we had 170 calls for service,” said Chief Perry. “Total, from July 1 to July 6 we had 108 calls for service and 88 of those calls were fireworks related.”

Further taxing officer resources were two rollover crashes, one of which was fatal.

“I swear it was a war zone right here in front of my apartment on Richland,” posted Ashika Bland on the “Ceres Community/Incident Feed” page on Facebook. “Fireworks didn’t stop til 4:30.”

Donna Framstad posted: “There’s so many illegals going off between John Paul Way and Central Ave off River rd you can just watch their show. My poor dogs are terrified.”

Ceres resident Don Cool sent up his drone and posted a video of the night sky over Ceres showing 18 minutes – as long as the drone could stay up on a battery charge – of continuous fireworks.

Jennifer McVeigh noted: “It was an absolute war zone where I live. Rose and Roeding. Can’t tell you how many times I ran outside to make sure my house wasn’t on fire because the bombs going off lighting up my house. I’m all for people doing what they want and having a good time but last night was overkill and got quite annoying.”

The illegal fireworks were so plentiful in Jason Prestridge’s neighborhood that he found cardboard wrappers had fallen into his yard and onto his roof, adding “thankfully no fire.”

“Crazy how loud it was last night and so many car alarms going off,” said Carlos Pereira.

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.

Elsewhere in Stanislaus County, a house caught fire on Palliser Way near Ustach School in Modesto.