Far fewer Ceres residents should be launching aerial fireworks and lighting firecrackers this Fourth of July with the threat of a $2,500 fine enacted Monday by the Ceres City Council. At least that’s the city’s goal.
The action increases the fine from $1,000.
In 2017, the council adopted an ordinance in an attempt to curb the proliferation of illegal fireworks in Ceres. It provided for an administrative penalty of $1,000 per violation. However, the use of illegal fireworks seems to have increased and was at a zenith last year months after the lockdown began.
Ceres resident Dave Pratt on Monday commented that the illegal fireworks and loud M-80s seem to be blasted off throughout the year. He wondered if Ceres Police were cracking down on illegal fireworks throughout the year.
John Osgood said he hears loud explosions nightly and said while he supports the fine increase, it won’t matter unless enforcement occurs.
“At my home on Charlotte Avenue it’s a war zone most evenings,” said Osgood. “We have to do the enforcement as well as upping the fine.”
John Warren weighed in, saying “my dog runs under the bed almost every night because of the loud noises outside that have to do with gunfire and illegal fireworks.” He asked the council to ban the sale of safe and sane fireworks, feeling that they promote the illegal fireworks.
“We condone this behavior by lack of enforcement as well as allowing the sales and the use of fireworks in our city,” said Warren. “Nobody cleans up their mess; they just throw it in the street.”
In 2020 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.
Pete Samaniego of the Ceres American Legion Post said his group’s primary fundraiser to benefit youth sports and veterans is through the sale of safe and sane legal fireworks. He argued that banning those would proliferate use of illegal fireworks.
Shawna Moore of the Legion post asked about the status of those who were cited last year for illegal fireworks. City Manager Tom Westbrook noted that the city issued a total of 38 administrative citations from July 1 to July 5, 2020 subjecting violators to a $1,000 fine. Four were appealed but all were upheld. One was dismissed. The city received payments from some but those who were delinquent in paying were sent to a collections agency, he said.
Osgood came back to the dais to suggest that the city could arrest offenders and put them in jail.
Councilman Bret Silveira said he will never support banning the sale of legal fireworks in Ceres. He said increasing the fines is designed to raise money for increased enforcement.
Mayor Javier Lopez cast the lone vote against raising the fine to $2,500. Supporting the action were Silveira, Councilwoman Linda Ryno and Vice Mayor Couper Condit.
After launching a well-publicized campaign in 2019 to combat the use and possession of illegal fireworks, Ceres Police cited 53 individuals for illegal fireworks between 5 p.m. on Thursday, July 4 and 1:30 a.m. the next morning. Ceres Fire Department personnel issued seven citations of their own.
Last year Ceres Police Department Captain Pat Crane Captain Patrick Crane said some people were trying to avoid citations by blowing off illegal fireworks in less conspicuous ways, like from their backyards and periodically. Other4s would launch illegal fireworks from fields or remote locations and leave in a hurry.
For the 2020 holiday weekend Ceres Police had three two-man cars cruising around just responding to fireworks on the evening of the Fourth. 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 the Fourth.
Because firefighters were busy answering grass and structure fire calls inside and outside of Ceres, they were unable to do any enforcement last year as they did in 2019.