FD officials ask revelers to play safe this July 4

Local fire departments caution children and adults about the dangers of shooting off fireworks in current California drought conditions.

Morgan Hill Fire Marshal Dwight Good first became attracted to fire work when he joined the Mariposa County Volunteer Fire Department in 1991. At first it was just a fun hobby, but that hobby eventually turned into a passion for keeping people safe from fire.
Now, more than two years into his job as fire marshal, Good spends many of his work hours educating the public on fire safety. Foremost on his and most South County first responders’ minds today is the upcoming Independence Day celebration and how those festivities impact fire safety during this fourth year of California’s drought.
Good noted that Cal Fire and South County’s city fire services are almost seamless in their interface. Good and his Gilroy counterpart, Fire Marshal Jacqueline Bretschneider, collaborate often and are good friends.
“Jacqueline’s job is unique, because in some places in Gilroy, it’s legal to use ‘safe and sane’ fireworks,” Good explained.
“Safe and sane” is actually a classification for consumer fireworks. In California, a vendor can’t buy or sell fireworks without that classification. Good described the main characteristics of this classification of pyrotechnics and what they do and don’t do.
“They don’t fly, don’t leave the ground
or go ‘bang’—in other words, no explosives,” he said.
Fireworks vendors provide samples to the fire marshal’s office for testing. The tests are repeated several times to ensure each product performs as promised. In the case of fireworks like fountains that remain on the ground, the spray can’t go more than 20 feet into the air. And testers use an actual wall with a marker to measure it.
Bretschneider explained how an increasing amount of illegal fireworks crossing the borders into California from other states where they are legal is a growing problem for the whole state.
“It’s really a specialized area of law enforcement,” she said.
Due to the illegal nature of these explosives and the danger to users, advisories discouraging the use of unlawful fireworks have been issued throughout Santa Clara County. Gilroy allows the sale of safe and sane fireworks through 16 nonprofit organization fireworks booths from July 1-4, but posters have been posted in Gilroy indicating areas where even these legal fireworks are not allowed. These areas are described as “Wildland Urban Interface-Hazardous Fire Areas.”
Additionally, 19,000 flyers printed in English and Spanish listing restrictions on fireworks were mailed to all Gilroy addresses. The flyer warns that citations and fines will be issued to violators.
Bretschneider also stressed that the purchase of safe and sane fireworks carries restrictions.
“You must be a resident of Gilroy to purchase safe and sane fireworks, and
it is illegal to carry them out of the city
of Gilroy because they are prohibited in all other areas of Santa Clara County,” she said.
Every person who buys safe and sane fireworks in Gilroy will be given a flyer covering Gilroy’s 2015 fireworks restrictions.
Santa Clara County is mostly a fireworks-free zone, Good clarified. And that’s the way he prefers it.
“Nationwide, we see a huge number of fires usually caused by fireworks, so I’m not a fan of fireworks,” he said.

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