Officials to enforce fireworks limitsBy Shaun Bishop
With fireworks going on sale this weekend in two Peninsula cities, local police and fire agencies will be strictly enforcing bans and restrictions on the use of pyrotechnics in an effort to prevent wildfires during a season that has already seen more than 1,000 of them statewide.
And with the Fourth of July falling on a Friday, they'll have their hands full with patriotic revelers.
"It's like the beginning of the weekend, so there may be a little bit more activity than we would have if Fourth of July happened to hit during the week," Redwood City Fire Marshall Louis Vella said. "And we are very well aware of that."
All types of fireworks are illegal in most Peninsula cities, but Pacifica and San Bruno do allow the sale and use of "safe and sane" fireworks - small devices that don't shoot into the air.
Temporary booths in those cities began selling fireworks at noon Saturday and can continue to do so until July 4. Both have also increased fines this year for using fireworks outside specified periods.
The San Bruno City Council voted Friday to increase fines for setting off fireworks unsafely or before noon and after 10 p.m. between June 28 and July 3 and before noon and after midnight on Independence Day.
Now, a first offense will carry a fine of $500, up from $100, and each offense after that will cost celebrants $1,000.
Pacifica also voted this month to adopt similar double fines and time restrictions. Fireworks will be allowed there 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. June 29 through July 5 and the fines will be the same. Possessing any illegal fireworks carries a $1,000 fine and up to six months in jail.
Pacifica police Capt. Fernando Realyvasquez said the fireworks sales are important to local booster clubs that depend on fundraisers to support high school sports programs. But he said police will have no tolerance for illegal fireworks and want residents to be cautious this year, even with the safe and sane variety.
"You can still get injured from those fireworks," Realyvasquez said. "They can still cause fires."
Vella said Redwood City will step up efforts to remind residents that fireworks are illegal anywhere in that town. Extra police patrols will go out looking for fireworks, and electronic billboards usually used for traffic messages will be posted throughout the city to remind people of the ban.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Friday urged local governments to take steps "including a fireworks ban if necessary, to protect their communities and prevent any further aggravation of our state's already severe fire situation."
Vella said residents also should take care to keep barbecues and open flames attended and away from dry brush.
"This year, because of the conditions we have, nature itself is maybe a little bit less forgiving," Vella said.
Police Cmdr. Mike Matteucci said Burlingame police officers are reminded at briefings to be extra vigilant about watching for fireworks, but aren't planning any other changes this year.
"We obviously get a lot more calls for service regarding fireworks," Matteucci said. "We just try to respond as best we can to all those calls."
Bay Area News Group contributed to this report.
Copyright ©2008 San Mateo Daily News. Published 06/29/2008.