Lingering haze in the air from hundreds of Northern California fires serve as a reminder of the increased fire danger heading into the Fourth of July holiday. It's this year's dry conditions that has leaders from the Livermore-Pleasanton Fire Department and Pleasanton and Livermore police departments urging residents to avoid using fireworks.
A short rain season has left much of Pleasanton and surrounding areas with dry vegetation especially susceptible to fires, according to LPFD Chief Bill Cody. In the past few weeks, the northern region of the state has suffered from about 1,000 fires; many of them Cody said were started by humans.
Pleasanton Police Chief Michael Fraser said all fireworks, including the ones marketed as "safe and sane" and often sold in unincorporated Dublin, are illegal in most of Alameda County.
"We get about 150 calls for service around the first of July," Fraser said. "It keeps us busy and we're kept away from important calls."
In addition to fire danger and potential personal injuries from fireworks, Fraser said they also cause a disruption to pets. In the past, he said, animals have been known to be so afraid that they get loose and run into the streets.
In Pleasanton, the minimum fine for a first firework offense is $100, with increasing fines for more offenses. Livermore Police Chief Steve Sweeney said fines are up to $500 in Livermore and penalties can include up to 30 days in jail.
The same message is touted by the law agencies year after year, but Sweeney said it is making a difference.
"We're getting more calls of illegal fireworks than in the past," he said. Is everyone listening? No. Is the majority listening? Yes."
Livermore police have already made arrests over illegal firework possession and confiscated several hundred pounds of devices, including explosives like m100s and m1000s, "safe and sane" fireworks, cherry bombs and large aerial shooters. Considered toxic waste, the departments must dispose of these items at a special facility in Dublin. An added taxpayer cost Sweeney said can be hard on a tight budget.
Fire Marshall Scott Deaver said the "safe and sane" fireworks carry a small, white seal on the packaging showing they are approved by the state. Many more dangerous fireworks and explosives are adding similar looking seals as a marketing trick, he added.
Seal or not, all Alameda County law agencies are said to have a no tolerance policy on fireworks this year. Instead, they encourage families to visit one of the many nearby pyrospectacular shows, including in San Ramon and Livermore, which are put on by licensed professionals.
Pleasanton police and each fire station will accept fireworks on a no-questions-asked policy.