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Officials warn public to use only safe and sane fireworks
Ceres officials are advising the public to stay away from the illegal fireworks to celebrate the Fourth of July and go for the safe and sane variety that are being sold by area non-profit organizations.

It's illegal to possess or discharge anything that flies into the air - like bottle rockets - or explodes, such as firecrackers. They are illegal because of their potential to hurt people and 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:

• Village Chapel at 1825 Central Avenue;

• Inglesia Apostolica at 2147 Pine Street;

• Ceres Sizzle at 2362 E. Whitmore Avenue;

• Central Valley High School Athletic Sports Boosters at1611 E. Hatch Road;

• Ceres Football Club at 1561 Mitchell Road;

• Ceres Cowboys - Delta Youth Football at 1670 Mitchell Road;

• Valley View Church of the Nazarene, next to 1830 E. Hatch Road;

• CVHS Band and Color Guard at 1830 Mitchell Road;

• Ceres Christian Church at 2420 E. Whitmore Ave.;

• Dolphin Swim Club at 1650 E. Hatch Road;

• Tri-County Smash at 2000 N. Central Ave.;

• Ceres Pathfinders at 1878 E. Whitmore Ave.;

• Grace Community Church at 1354 E. Hatch Road;

• Ceres Youth Soccer Association, 3240 Mitchell Road;

• Ceres Livestock Boosters at 1515 Mitchell Road;

• First Pentecostal Church, 1850 E. Hatch Road;

• St. Jude's Catholic Church at 3824 Mitchell Road;

• Victory Assembly of God at 1960 E. Hatch Road;

• American Legion Post #491 at 2531 E. Whitmore Avenue.

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 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."

DeWerk said he and his department are usually out in force to keep the peace.

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. Currently, about 290 communities in California that permit state-approved fireworks to be sold and used every Fourth of July. 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 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 Brian Nicholes.