With the 4th of July just around the bend, California state and local officials are preparing to put a damper on the transportation of illegal fireworks into the state this year.
"We are here to tell the people who traffic illegal fireworks," says David Hillman, Cal Fire Chief of Law Enforcement and Fire Prevention, "that we don't care if you do it for fun or for profit. We are determined to put a stop to it."
State and local fire and law enforcement agencies say California continues to see a growing influx of illegal fireworks into the state by organized, commercial operations as well as small, individual, criminal entrepreneurs.
Statistics compiled over the last few years cite that in many communities people have looked up into the sky to witness dazzling fireworks displays that often last for hours and rival authorized publicly launched displays. This wasn't always the case.
Large-scale illegal fireworks operations that smuggle trucks full of fireworks from out of state have increased. At the same time, the number of officers has decreased.
"While 10 years ago this was a problem that local government could be expected to handle and control, today it will take a massive, coordinated effort between state, federal, and local agencies to stop the supply of these illegal items coming across our state's borders," says California Sen. Ron Calderon.
California law defines dangerous, illegal fireworks to include such items as sky rockets, bottle rockets, roman candles, aerial shells, firecrackers, and other miscellaneous types of fireworks that explode, go up in the air, or move about the ground in an uncontrollable fashion.
In California, possession of dangerous, illegal fireworks is a misdemeanor, which is punishable with a fine of up to $1,000 or by imprisonment in a county jail for up to one year. Additionally, parents may be held liable for any fire damage or injury caused by their children using illegal fireworks.