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Be "safe and sane' on 4th
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This year, police and fire personnel are gearing up for a potentially busy Independence Day, owing to the fact that it takes place on a Friday, and we are expecting more people to stay home because of high fuel prices and economic pressures. This, coupled with an extremely dry environment resulting from near drought conditions, makes for severe fire danger and sets the stage for other potential problems.

"Safe and sane" fireworks are legal in this area. Exploding devices like M-80s, ladyfingers, firecrackers, and aerial devices like bottle rockets, rockets, roman candles, chrysanthemums and mortars are unlawful. Keep in mind that transporting illegal fireworks into California from other states or countries is both a state and federal offense. Mail-ordering these illegal devices is also strictly prohibited, and with the high tech equipment now used by parcel companies and the United States Post Office, the chance of detection is high. Furthermore, people using the mail or commercial carrier services to transport illegal fireworks will most certainly be looked upon for any terrorist connections. It will be a most unpleasant experience if the feds shake you down for this kind of illegal activity.

Some people choose to discharge firearms into the air and ground during times of celebration. This is obviously illegal, but more importantly, it is very dangerous and outright stupid. Stray bullets from these so-called "festive activities" kill innocent victims every year. And, so it seems, children are often the ones hit. Here in Ceres, there have been instances of near misses, including one incident where a small child in bed was only inches from being struck by a bullet shot into the air.

Fortunately, the vast majority of citizens act intelligently and in a safe manner to celebrate this country's independence. A number (a much too large number) of people choose to set off explosives and discharge firearms. They make for a dangerous environment, ruining this festive and important day for law-abiding citizens.

A few things to keep in mind include keeping a bucket of water and/or garden hose nearby in case any "safe and sane" fireworks accidentally cause a fire. Keep all fireworks away from fields, dry grass, vegetation, bushes, etc. Under no circumstances should firearms be discharged. The police can tell the difference between gunfire and fireworks, and there will be strict enforcement during that holiday weekend.

Typically, each community receives hundreds of complaints about illegal fireworks, many of which occur simultaneously. We will have extra police patrols and fire personnel on duty; however, they cannot possibly respond to every call. Priority is given to reports of gunfire, aerial fireworks, reports of fires, injured persons, illegal parties and other situations posing immediate hazards.

It seems that each year, residents are doing a better job of cleaning the streets of expended fireworks, papers, food items, cans and other things left over from neighborhood Fourth of July gatherings. We ask that everyone cleans and sweeps up their garbage after the festivities to keep our city clean and save taxpayer money.

As the population grows, and the unsafe use of both legal and illegal fireworks continues to grow along with it, local governments may well ban fireworks altogether. Whether or not this happens has much to do with what the population does. As long as there are no preventable fires and injuries do not become a problem, we should all be able to continue celebrating Fourth of July as in the past. The police will continue with rigorous enforcement of the laws, but we need the interest, cooperation and support from the community. I sincerely ask that everyone make a commitment to celebrate this special holiday such that health, safety and the preservation of property is maintained.