Board Approves `Action Plan’ to Deter Use of Illegal Fireworks

City News Service

RIVERSIDE (CNS) – The Board of Supervisors today approved a “2022
Fireworks Safety Action Plan” to deter use of illegal pyrotechnics in
unincorporated communities, establishing a campaign to begin ahead of the July
4th. weekend, with a $100,000. allocation for public service announcements and
extra-hours staffing.

“Riverside County enforces a zero tolerance policy for illegal use of
fireworks,” Riverside County Fire Chief Bill Weiser told the board ahead
of its 5-0 vote in favor of the Action Plan. “There are some fun (legally
permitted) outdoor shows that people can enjoy. They’re going to be great this
year.”

The Action Plan concept was first implemented by the board just prior
to the July 4th. celebrations last year. A “You Light It, We Write It”
campaign was initiated using changeable electronic message signs, referring to
the potential for steep fines in connection with illegally igniting
pyrotechnics.

According to Weiser, during the week leading up to July 4, 2021,
deputies, fire investigators and other law enforcement agencies within the
county seized over 800 pounds of non-permitted fireworks and arrested eight
people for possession or use of the devices.

Under the plan this year, the Executive Office is authorized to spend
$100,000 in General Fund money to start the campaign anew.

Roughly $30,000 of that sum will cover overtime costs for increased
deployment of code enforcement officers, and another $70,000 will cover public
service announcements using roadside message signs, digital billboards and
broadcast messages, according to the EO.

In the new campaign, sheriff’s deputies will take the lead in
identifying fireworks violators, with at least 10 code enforcement officers
dedicated to roving patrols July 2-4, partnering with deputies, including
during the overnight hours, to catch scofflaws.

In April of 2021, the Office of County Counsel, in collaboration with
the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department and Cal Fire, drafted amendments to
long-standing regulations codified under county Ordinance No. 858 prohibiting
illegal pyrotechnics.

Under the amendments, higher civil penalties were established, ranging
between $1,000 and $5,000. The amount depends on the number of violations
within a 36-month period. The previous fines were between $500 and $1,000.

The revisions also created liabilities for property owners who
knowingly permit someone to light illegal fireworks, increasing penalties
further.

The final provisiongof the revised ordinance granted the county fire
chief authority to designate specific locations in unincorporated areas where
so-called “safe and sane” fireworks can be sold and ignited. In Blythe,
Coachella, Desert Hot Springs and Indio, the safe and sane devices, like
sparklers, fountains and snappers that don’t shoot into the airare permitted.

Although the chief has discretion on issuing permits authorizing sales
of legal pyrotechnics, cities within the county that have stand-alone fire
agencies continue to have their own regulatory processes for permitting
fireworks shows.

People can report illegal fireworks via the sheriff’s non-emergency
enforcement line, 1-800-950-2444, or at the web portal
https://www.riversidesheriff.org/555/fireworks.

In 2020, a series of illicit fireworks-related incidents occurred on
or just before Independence Day that some officials attributed to “lockdown
fever,” with people seeking outlets amid coronavirus-related restrictions,
which resulted in most public fireworks shows being canceled countywide that
summer.

Multiple brush fires erupted, causing property damage but no injuries.

“There were so many fires in the western county region that we ran
out of fire engines to respond to them,” Riversdie County Supervisor Kevin
Jeffries recalled.

Immediately afterward, he and Supervisor Karen Spiegel requested that
the county develop more robust strategies for deterring and penalizing the use,
possession and sales of illegal pyrotechnics.

In the next two weeks, the county fire department web portal will
provide a comprehensive list of where to see Fourth of July extravaganzas this
year.

Copyright 2022, City News Service, Inc.

CNS-06-07-2022 12:02

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