VISALIA, California. (KGPE) – The city of Visalia is doubling down on illegal fireworks. The fine for a first-time offense just doubled to $2,000.
It’s one of the highest penalties in the area, while that’s not to say fines in other communities are low.
A citation in Fresno may cost $1,250. In Clovis, Madera, and Hanford the fine for a first offense is $1,000. It’s $1,000 to $2,000 in Merced and $1,500 in Porterville.
The Visalia City Council moved to raise the fine after discussing the widespread nature of the problem.
Visalia Mayor Steven Nelsen he wants the public to enjoy the 4th of July, but the city has concerns about illegal fireworks being used.
“One of the concerns is, for example, where I live they’ll start shooting off large-type bombs kind of thing a week ahead of the 4th of July. It’s constant every night and it goes two or three days after the 4th of July,” explained Nelsen.
Another concern is how the illegal fireworks would mix with the current dry conditions throughout the city brought on by the drought.
“We’re trying to stop the illegal use of fireworks. Especially in the current drought conditions we’re in. We have a lot of dry property and brush. It won’t take much to set that off. So I think something needed to be done and I think we took the right step,” said Nelsen.
Nelson says illegal fireworks are costly to the community. It stresses city services and property and lives are lost, some of which are not at all involved with the illegal activity. “It’s disruptive for the homeowners. Very disruptive for the pets. There’s a lot of concern there. Like I said with the dry conditions I’m concerned where they’re going to land.”
The higher fine is just one piece of a broader effort to reduce use of illegal fireworks.
“The message we want to say is we take this very seriously. We’re doing a two-prong approach. One, we’re looking at the fines situation where maybe it’s now high enough where someone will do a second take and say, ‘maybe I don’t need to do this.’ The other area we’re looking at is working jointly with surrounding communities. i.e. like a task force to try and find out where the illegal fireworks are coming from. Is it simply someone going across the border and bringing them home. Or is it an organized situation where they’re doing these sales? We’re going to try to zero in on that because we just look at the proliferation. It’s gotta be more than just people who make a simple purchase and bringing it back.”
Mayor Nelsen believes a stricter stance on illegal fireworks still fits the spirit of the holiday. “You have the outcry that it’s troublesome. Then you have those that say let’s just let it celebrate. We’re all for celebrations and honoring the 4th of July and what it means. But let’s be cognizant and be good neighbors and responsible neighbors and I think we can all celebrate in a good way.”
He adds officials are ready to tackle the problem. “The fire marshal and fire department — we basically have everybody on high alert. We usually have them on high alert before the fourth. Our police department is on high alert because it is a burden on the community, it’s a burden on the animals, and like I said in the beginning I’m now concerned with the dry brush areas.”