In an ordinary year, the Modesto Police Department issues between 10 and 20 citations for fireworks violations. This year, 45 citations were issued on the night of July 4 alone. Firefighters and police responded to 274 calls in the twenty-four hour period between 7am July 4 and 7am July 5, including 65 fires. Below, former Modesto City Councilmember Bruce Frohman argues that we need stricter regulations or an outright ban due to increasingly dangerous and disturbing fireworks violations. ed.
During my term in office (1999-2003), Modesto City Councilmembers informally discussed passing an ordinance to either restrict or ban fireworks completely. At the time, we decided against such an action primarily because of the large number of local non-profit organizations that depend on income from the sale of fireworks.
Despite complaints about excessive noise and upset animals, the annual disruption has been allowed to continue every year in the 20 years since the our discussion.
Unfortunately, the behavior of some citizens worsens every year. The hardship imposed on some by the inconsiderate should encourage the Modesto City Council to improve local fireworks ordinances.
The Problem has gotten Much Worse
If my neighborhood is representative of others throughout our community, the volume and frequency of explosions has grown exponentially. Prior to my departure from office in 2003, fireworks were set off primarily on July 4th, with small numbers exploded the day before and after.
This year, fireworks were set off every evening in the last two weeks before July 4th. Many explosions have been the loud M-80’s, which are already illegal. They are repeatedly set off as late as 1AM, waking my wife and I out of our sleep.
On July 4th, noisemakers began at 9AM and went off throughout the day, continuing until 1 AM the next morning. If 2023 is like 2022, loud explosions will continue nightly for at least two more weeks.
The explosions are so loud that some pet owners have resorted to giving their animals tranquilizers. Others put pets inside the center of their homes, but report that doing so provides little relief for their trembling fur balls.
Cable News Network (CNN) reported on July 4th that gun shots fired at the Philadelphia block party where a mass shooting took place on July 3rd were mistaken for exploding fireworks. Only an expert can tell the difference between a gun shot, a car backfire, or exploding fireworks.
Veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder may be adversely impacted by the war-like sounds of exploding fireworks.
On July 5th of every year, piles of spent fireworks litter and discolor the streets with burnt waste.
Some parents do not supervise their children, who unsafely use fireworks and may use the explosives to engage in vandalism. The morning that I wrote this article, I found a burnt fireworks package by the locked gate in my back yard.
When the City Council had discussed fireworks with Fire Chief Doug Hannink about 20 years ago, he said that the City of Modesto had more fires on the 4th of July than most other nights of the year. But, he did not recommend outlawing them as the number of fires was manageable at the time.
Given the large number of nights that fireworks are presently set off, the City Council should have the present chief update the number of incidents for the period from June 15 to July 15 to determine whether Chief Hannink’s recommendation should be revised. How much money does fighting fireworks- related fires cost the city? How many emergency room visits do local hospitals experience from injuries related to fireworks?
What Kind of City Ordinance Does Modesto Need?
A range of options can be customized to the needs of the general public. In California, some cities have imposed a total ban on fireworks. A total ban with zero tolerance and steep fines would eliminate the problem of noise and would make identifying illegal fireworks easy and prosecution clear-cut.
A less strict option would be to limit the hours for use of fireworks on July 4th and prohibit fireworks on other days, with steep fines for violation. This moderate option would probably be acceptable to most law-abiding citizens.
Another option would be to shorten the duration of permitted fireworks sales. However, this option would not eliminate illegal fireworks and would result in less income to the charities that sell fireworks. It might cause citizens to go to other communities to make purchases.
Public fireworks displays are generally more exciting to view, but less noisy due to the high altitude of the explosions. Any restriction on the use of fireworks on private property could be offset with improved public displays around the city.
The 4th of July is intended to be a national celebration and bring great enjoyment to the citizenry. Due to the increasingly inconsiderate behavior of a minority, the hardship imposed on the law-abiding majority should be reduced altogether or, at least, minimized.