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Petaluma considers stricter laws on fireworks


Efforts to further regulate fireworks in Petaluma appear to be gaining momentum.

Shortly after July 4th, residents and city leaders shared anecdotes about seeing the skies above Petaluma alight with illegal fireworks.

Mayor David Glass said the illegal display he saw surpassed the official community-sponsored event at the fairgrounds.

According to the Fire Department, reports involving illegal fireworks are fewer, but the users of the banned incendiary devices may just be getting sneakier.

Fire Marshal Cary Fergus said the city’s fireworks ordinance is difficult to enforce because the users often mask the banned pyrotechnics with state-sanctioned “safe and sane” ones. They also sometimes duck into garages or shoot off airborne fireworks from their backyards.

“We have a hard time getting to them,” he said. “They’re getting pretty smart.”

Earlier this year, the City Council discussed changing how and when fireworks are sold in Petaluma, but it was too near the holiday to change city ordinances.

Fergus said four small fires this year were determined to have been started by fireworks, two of which were from state-approved fireworks. That compares to one fireworks-caused fire in 2010.

In all, police and firefighters responded to 80 calls involving fireworks during the four-day holiday. The recent high for calls was 172 in 2007, although the past two years have averaged 93 calls.

Four $1,000 citations were issued this year when authorities witnessed a group of men shooting off illegal devices near McNear Park. They were aged 29 to 33. Two of the men were Petaluma residents, Fergus said.

Glass said he would prefer all fireworks be banned in Petaluma, as they are in Santa Rosa and other cities. But he conceded that there likely isn’t community or City Council support to do that.

State-sanctioned fireworks are sold in four Sonoma County cities — Sebastopol, Cloverdale, Rohnert Park and Petaluma — mainly by community groups to support their fundraising efforts. The state-approved fireworks are restricted to non-flying, non-explosive devices designed to be safer than less-regulated fireworks.

In Petaluma, 18 booths operated this year, out of an available 22 permits. The city allowed four days of sales and one day of use. Rohnert Park allows five days of sales, which Petaluma nonprofit representatives say hurts them.

“That fifth day of sales is tremendous for us because it allows us to support so many things here in the city,” said Larry Finkel, assistant director of the McDowell Drug Task Force, noting the scholarships and anti-drug and alcohol efforts his group funds.

He said the problems are caused by illegal fireworks, not the ones his group and others sell.

“We have to remember, all fireworks do have the potential to start a fire,” Fergus said.

Glass said the city could look at requiring Petaluma booth operators to be Petaluma residents. Five of the 18 booth permit-holders this year were not.

Councilman Chris Albertson, the former Petaluma fire chief, said the city may discuss reducing the number of booth permits available.

Sebastopol allowed three renewable permits this year, but isn’t issuing others, which could eventually lead to no fireworks sales in the city, Fergus said.

The issue likely come before the City Council in the next few months.

10 Responses to “Petaluma considers stricter laws on fireworks”

  1. darryl nelson says:

    Its real easy, legalize all fireworks for New years , 9exempt in city limits)from dec29 thru 1stof yr, between 9& 12 pm(these MUST be permitted on school sportrs fields , parks , Only!!Police & firemen will be there, any “horse play” you are out for season,then on 4th of July Safe & sane “only!!Ariels , cakes only in winter, avoiding fires, the city needs the revenue!!

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  2. Ricardo Sorentino says:

    It wasn’t in Petaluma, but remember the million dollar fire in Rohnert Park? I’ll bet out of all the money that was earned as ‘fund raisers’, not a dime was used for the families that were left homeless nor reimbursing the insurance companies that were stuck with the bill.

    Thumbs down to me, since I believe that all fireworks should be banned in Sonoma county. Between the potential for loss of homes, human injuries, the air pollution it produces and the stress to dogs, I don’t see the need for any fireworks.

    I know: ‘boo’ to me.


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  3. Money Grubber says:

    Average Joe:

    It wasn’t long ago that someone’s sky rocket came down on my house and bounced into my front yard.

    No physical damage done but the potential for a house fire was clear. And the people who shot the device wouldn’t have been the ones who had to pay the insurance deductible and suffer the troubles.

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  4. Money Grubber says:

    Most everyone loves fireworks on the 4th of July. I know I did.

    The problem is that those people who are injured by fireworks, such as blinding injuries to the eyes, then expect everyone else including the taxpayer … to pick up the medical tab for their loved one.

    Alas, the only way to keep from having to foot the bill for injuries caused by the explosives is to prohibit their use.

    They, uh, do cause way too many brush fires, too, which the public then has to pay for in the way of expanded fire protections.

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  5. Steveguy says:

    More laws, especially for New Years in the fog fireworks. More fines and more revenue instead of going after them scary gang bangers.

    Make the cops have fines for responsible citizens. The cash cow.
    The more fines, the more pension . Maybe they should give an award to the most money-hungry cop, both overtime style and revenue style. Santa Rosa City Cops are soooooo good at fining anyone and everyone. a cash machine.

    Fine the middle class having safe fun, in the guise of ‘protecting the public’ That is sick.


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  6. Watch Pup says:

    Finally! Thank you, Petaluma City Councilmembers. Along with the very real risks of fire and injury, fireworks are nothing short of torture to pets and wildlife.

    The nonprofit groups that complain every time this issue comes up have had more than a decade to find another funding source. It is not the city’s responsibility to continue to put us and our pets at risk because of these groups’ inertia. Maybe an ordinance change will light a fire under them — ha ha.

    Enough is enough. The city’s fireworks show is more than sufficient. This is Northern California where the land has a short fuse. It is insane and unsafe to continue to allow personal fireworks.

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  7. Average Joe says:

    Perhaps there should be an American history test required to purchase fireworks. That would solve the problem

    This whole Idea of igniting incendiary devices in your yard or street to celebrate is as stupid as the people who use them. Yeee Haww Duane!

    They make a huge mess and usually result in some drunken injury or property damage.

    If you are that damn Patriotic then send the American Legion 10 bucks and call it good.

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  8. Steveguy says:

    I have enjoyed the lighting of fireworks for decades. Yes, even ‘illegal’ ones. Big ones.

    I rarely set them off on the 4th of July, as the fire danger was too high. I would shoot off safe but insane ones at the park, bigger ones at the beach.

    The best time for shooting off now felonious fireworks is New Years Eve. Yes, felonious, as since 9-11 I had to stop due to ‘terrorism’. I can go to many other States, buy them any day and shoot them freely ( in a safe manner -of course)

    Growing up as a kid in the Midwest, you shot fireworks for birthdays and other times.

    It used to be Patriotic (and fun) to blow off some ‘works, now it’s a crime.

    This is our new style of Government, ban it all instead of punishing bad behavior. A few ruin it for the whole. Like the zero-tolerance idiocy.

    High flying fireworks on the 4th in dry areas is already against the law, and is stupid. But if someone has bottle rockets or roman candles in a safe area, so what ?

    Though if I was a dog, I would be cheering !

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  9. Kim says:

    More over regulation to guard us against less than 1% of the population that does not go by the rules. ENOUGH ALREADY!

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  10. Jim says:

    “We have to remember, all fireworks do have the potential to start a fire,” Fergus said.

    What a brilliant statement! Did you know that lawnmowers have the potential of starting fires too? Let’s force permits on them. So do magnifying glasses. PERMIT TIME!

    Another revenue generators for the City…increase permit fees. So two small fires were started by legal fireworks in 2011, and one in 2010. WOW! Let’s ban them, right Mr. Glass? The organizations that depend on sales as fundraisers don’t need the money anyway. Petaluma has already restricted sales to four days.

    When does the regulation end??

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