What Happens After Firefighters Seize Illegal Fireworks?

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Some local agencies, like Sacramento Metro Fire, responded to several calls about illegal fireworks around the Fourth of July. But after they seize the fireworks, sometimes they ask the state for help.

“They are uncontrollable, you don’t know where they’re going to end up,” said Chris Vestal, with Sacramento Metro Fire Department.

The celebration is over, but law enforcement agencies around the state are still hard at work collecting illegal fireworks. Over the past five years, fireworks have sparked more than 2,500 structure and wildfires in California. Thousands of acres burned at Lake Berryessa back in 2015 and it all started with an illegal firework.

In California, any firework that explodes, goes up in the air, or moves around the ground uncontrollably is banned. And only about half of the cities and counties in the state even allow small sparklers.

“It has the Safe and Sane Fire Marshal Seal on it,” Vestal said. “If they don’t have that seal, it’s not a legal firework.”

Vestal said Sac Metro Fire collected more than 1,000 pounds of illegal fireworks.

“When we collect those, we have to have them properly disposed of, and because they are a hazardous material, because they are, in fact, an explosive, they have to be controlled in how they are eliminated,” he explained.

He told CBS13 they hire qualified contractors to get rid of the material. In Stockton, anything picked up goes to its bomb squad for storage, and then they call the state to take it away.

“Years ago, we used to, in a safe manner, burn them, but it just wasn’t as environmentally friendly as other options that have come up,” said Daniel Berlant, Assistant Deputy Director of Cal Fire’s Office of the State Fire Marshal.

He says now any illegal fireworks they collect don’t stay local for very long.

“We package them, and we actually ship them out of state where they are destroyed safely,” Berlant said.

Possessing, using or selling illegal fireworks could cost you a $50,000 fine or up to a year in jail.

“The penalties are harsh, and I think it shows our zero tolerance towards the illegal fireworks,” Berlant said.

As of 10 p.m. Wednesday, it’s illegal to use any fireworks within the state. So if you still have them, you can still turn them into Sac Metro Fire without penalty.

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