Our View: Fireworks crackdown long overdue

Sheriff's deputies fill boxes of illegal fireworks on July 4, 2017. Courtesy of the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station.

It’s grimly ironic that the Santa Clarita City Council voted Tuesday evening to put teeth into the city’s anti-fireworks ordinance.

It was just one evening after a wildfire ran rampant through the city of Santa Rosa, destroying an estimated 2,834 homes and laying waste to about 400,000 square feet of commercial space.

We applaud the council for approving a reward of $500 for those providing information that leads to the citation of someone using fireworks. It’s past time to take this action.

All this week we’ve been watching from Southern California as the death toll in Northern California’s multiple fires slowly crept upward. The slowly rising toll suggests firefighting personnel stoically moving from fire-leveled home site to fire-leveled home site, encountering skeletal remains of chimneys, unrecognizable piles of charred rubble, and the occasional human body of a person who was unable to get out fast enough.

News reports Friday indicated 31 reported deaths in NorCal fires, but perhaps more alarming: 400 people were unaccounted for in Sonoma County alone. It’s the deadliest week for wildfires in California history.

These aren’t the types of Northern California fires we’re used to, ones that rage in vast stands of vacant forest, taking out the occasional cabin. These are fires in suburban tract housing or in commercial districts like Santa Rosa.

In short, fires in at least one city not unlike Santa Clarita.

For too long, Santa Clarita Valley residents have tamed fire each Independence Day and brought it into their neighborhoods, boldly purchasing “safe and sane” fireworks at stands in Ventura County, sometimes traveling south of the border to buy the more dangerous firecrackers that can be purchased in Mexico.

The law against fireworks of all kinds – “safe and sane” fireworks are not legal in Los Angeles County – has been on the books for a long time, a requirement in communities that contract with the Los Angeles County Fire Department for fire protection.

But in Santa Clarita it’s often treated like a bit of advice from a not-very-credible doddering old aunt – not like it’s the law.

This year the city attempted an information drive shortly before July 4 on the dangers of fireworks, but the effect was minimal. Sheriff’s deputies responded to 116 complaints from residents, and many residents contacted The Signal to complain about late or nonexistent responses.

“After this year, it was clear we had to look at all options to get the illegal fireworks under control,” Mayor Cameron Smyth said Tuesday. The $500 reward is among those options. More personnel on duty at the Sheriff’s Station July 4 to answer phones – that’s also needed.

Meantime, residents whose holiday tradition includes a block fireworks show should forge a new tradition in 2018. Your snoopy neighbor may want to cash in on your old tradition.

Have your kids help you plan your new tradition, start early, and explain the danger of fireworks in the process.

We’re not saying fireworks caused any of the Northern California fires, which erupted during Santa Ana wind conditions and during the height of fire season. That information usually comes well after the fires are out and often is never known.

But a reminder that fire isn’t a play thing is always appropriate. And sometimes it’s the grownups who need reminding.

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