By: Supervisor Sue Frost
There are some issues that never seem to go away despite the best efforts of Sacramento County and the agencies we work with. This time of year, an issue that comes to the forefront of discussion is fireworks. It is a heated topic with valid concerns on both sides and every year, my colleagues and I hear all of them. One of the requests we most often get is to ban fireworks throughout the county. This would, of course, not only include the fireworks that are already illegal, but the permitted fireworks referred to as “safe and sane.” That is not an action I am prepared to take and I wanted to use this article as a chance to discuss some of the reasons why.
First, I think we can all agree that illegal fireworks are a problem. When we are talking about illegal fireworks, we are talking about the large rockets exploding in the sky or the ones you cannot see but can certainly hear from across town. The complaints my office gets about fireworks are almost always referencing these types of fireworks, and that is understandable. These fireworks are dangerous and disruptive. Unfortunately, there is nothing the County can do to make these any more illegal than they already are. Nor is the County in a position to cut these fireworks off at the source. Illegal fireworks are brought in from outside the state, mostly from Nevada. The state does not provide the checkpoints and enforcement that are necessary to stop people from buying fireworks in Nevada and driving them home to set off in our communities.
Ultimately, that is what it comes down to – enforcement. The County cannot be the authority at the state border for obvious reasons. At the same time, whether it is the use of illegal fireworks or abuse of safe and sane fireworks around the 4th of July, the Sheriff’s Department does not have the resources to find and cite every violator. The Sheriff also cannot shift resources to focus solely on fireworks when they have to prioritize more serious crimes which increase during this time of year. Our best option, and
my highest priority, is working with state legislators to get solutions to what is truly a state-level issue. Meanwhile, I do not anticipate safe and sane fireworks leaving the County any time soon either.
Some of the loudest voices of concern I hear call for the banning of safe and sane fireworks in addition to those that are already illegal. But safe and sane fireworks are not the bulk of the problem. Additionally, every year, Sacramento County nonprofit organizations raise thousands of dollars to support their causes from the sale of safe and sane fireworks. With illegal fireworks being the more prominent problem, banning safe and sane would do little more than deprive local nonprofits a significant fundraising opportunity. The same scenarios with illegal fireworks could play out with safe and sane if they were to be banned as well. Driving to a neighboring county to purchase illegal fireworks is a lot easier than driving to Nevada. My preference would be to maintain the fundraising opportunity for Sacramento County organizations, rather than drive local dollars outside the county just to have a minimal impact.
The fact is there is no easy solution. Other counties with bans on all firework sales face similar problems to Sacramento County. We will not truly see relief from the major firework issues until the state can take control of the illegal fireworks flooding into the state. And while I understand the concern of those who think a full ban is the answer, I do not believe that to be the sentiment of most. For now, we are better served to focus our efforts on the illegal fireworks that pose the biggest threat to safety and sanity.
Thank you for reading – and as always, if you want to contact me, call me at 916-874-5491, or e-mail me at SupervisorFrost@saccounty.net.
Sue Frost represents the 4th District, which includes all or part of the communities of Citrus Heights, Folsom, Orangevale, Antelope, Rio Linda, Elverta, Gold River, Rancho Murieta, North Highlands, Carmichael, Foothill Farms and Fair Oaks