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Officials warn against using illegal fireworks
19 non-profit groups selling legal fireworks
Ceres fire officials want Fourth of July firework celebrations limited to the safe and sane variety sold by Ceres non-profit groups. Sales start on Friday throughout town.

Ceres officials are advising the public to refrain from using the illegal variety of fireworks to celebrate the Fourth of July and go for the "safe and sane" variety soon to be sold by area non-profit organizations.

It's illegal to possess or discharge anything that flies into the air - such as bottle rockets - or explodes, such as firecrackers. They are illegal because of their potential to injure life and limb as well as start fires.

"The mere possession of these items, let alone setting them off, is a law violation that will be strictly enforced," said Art deWerk, director of Public Safety for the city of Ceres.

It is a long-standing tradition in Ceres of allowing only non-profit organizations to see safe and sane fireworks for Fourth of July celebrations. This year is no exception, with the city granting permission to 19 groups, including churches, youth sports groups and service clubs.

The 19 booths operating within the city of Ceres and their locations are as follows:

• Ceres Football Club, 1561 Mitchell Road;
• Ceres Pathfinders, 1578 E. Whitmore Ave.;
• Ceres Youth Soccer Association 3240 Mitchell Road;
• CVHS Athletic Sports Boosters, 1657 E. Hatch Road;
• Grace Community Christian Church, 1354 E. Hatch Road;
• Iglesia Apostilica, 2147 Pine Street;
• Ceres Sizzle, 2362 E. Whitmore Ave.;
• Valley View Church of the Nazarene, 2916 E. Whitmore Ave.;
• Village Chapel, 1825 Central Ave.;
• American Legion Post #491, 2531 E. Whitmore Ave.;
• CVHS Band and Guard, 1830 Mitchell Road;
• Ceres Christian Church, E. Whitmore @ Mitchell Road;
• Ceres Cowboys - Delta Youth Football, 1670 Mitchell Road;
• Ceres Livestock Boosters, 1515 Mitchell Road;
• Dolphin Swim Team, 1650 E. Hatch Road;
• First Pentecostal Church of God, 1850 E. Hatch Road;
• St. Jude's, Catholic Church, 3824 Mitchell Road
• Tri County Smash, Central Avenue @ Sequoia;
• Victory Assembly of God, 1960 E. Hatch Road.

At Monday's Ceres City Council meeting, former California Department of Forestry firefighter and Ceres resident Leonard Shepherd suggested that the council may wish to halt the sale of legal fireworks, calling them unsafe if children are advised not to use them.

Every year it seems neighborhoods are rocked with the boom of powerful M-80 firecrackers. Or the night-time skies are filled with an impressive but illegal display of fireworks. But authorities are hoping to end those illegal practices of celebrating the Fourth of July with threats of tougher sanctions.

Ceres city officials are promising tough fines - between $500 and $1,000 - for using illegal fireworks and possible jail time and sheriff's deputies will be looking for violators and issuing fines to lawbreakers.

Ceres uses the state ordinance for fines.

DeWerk said there will be zero toleration for illegal fireworks.

"It's not very easy to identify the source but when we do identify the source we will be very aggressive about it," said deWerk.

Officials are hard-nosed about it for simple safety reasons. Mortar type fireworks go up, come down and cinders can set fire to roofs and dry grass. Users have also been burned.

"It seems every year there's always some significant fire."

In California, the Office of the State Fire Marshal engages in an extensive testing and approval process of a limited variety of 1.4G fireworks that are known and labeled as "Safe and Sane" fireworks but are more commonly referred to as "State Fire Marshal-Approved," or "State-Approved Fireworks." These fireworks may be identified by the State Fire Marshal Seal found on the individual firework or the boxes containing them.

California law allows each city or county to determine whether they will permit these state-approved fireworks to be sold or used in their jurisdiction. While some local ordinances may be more restrictive, California law states that these state-approved fireworks may only be sold between noon on June 28 and noon on July 6 each year.
Generally speaking, in addition to not having been classified as Safe and Sane or state-approved, a firework item is considered dangerous and illegal if it "explodes" or "goes up in the air."

Illegal fireworks include cherry bombs, M-80s, M-100s, Roman candles, silver salutes, bottle rockets, firecrackers, aerial shells and mortars and helicopters.
DeWerk said many of the illegal fireworks that come into California are purchased in Mexico and states like South Dakota and Wyoming. M-80s, which are designed for agricultural use to scare off birds, may be purchased in California but "not for entertainment purposes," said deWerk.

An updated state law makes it easier for officials to cite illegal users and sellers. Fines now are based on the gross weight of the fireworks, including packaging.

"They're considered explosives," said Fire Marshall Bryan Nicholes.