RIVERSIDE (CNS) – The Board of Supervisors allocated $150,000 Tuesday for the “2023 Fireworks Safety & Enforcement Action Plan” to deter use of illegal pyrotechnics in unincorporated communities of Riverside County, with a campaign slated to begin ahead of the July 4th weekend.
In a 5-0 vote without comment, the supervisors signed off on the allotment for public service messages and other activities managed by the county executive office, fire department, sheriff’s department, department of code enforcement and other partners.
The action plan concept was first implemented by the board just prior to the July 4th celebrations in 2021. A “You Light It, We Write It” campaign was initiated using changeable electronic message signs, referring to the potential for steep fines in connection with illegally igniting pyrotechnics.
Under this year’s plan, agencies are authorized to spend $150,000 in General Fund money to start the campaign anew. The lion’s share of the funds will go to PSAs using roadside message signs, digital billboards and broadcast messages.
In April 2021, the Office of County Counsel, in collaboration with the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department and Cal Fire Riverside, drafted amendments to long-standing regulations codified under county Ordinance No. 858 prohibiting illegal pyrotechnics.
Under the amendments, higher civil penalties were established, ranging between $1,000 and $5,000. The amount depends on the number of violations within a 36-month period. Previous fines were between $500 and $1,000.
The revisions also created liabilities for property owners who knowingly permit someone to light illegal fireworks, further increasing penalties.
The final provision of the revised ordinance granted the county fire chief authority to designate specific locations in unincorporated areas where so-called “safe and sane” fireworks can be sold and ignited. In Blythe, Coachella, Desert Hot Springs and Indio, the devices — such as sparklers, fountains and snappers — are permitted.
Although the chief has discretion on issuing permits authorizing sales of fireworks, cities within the county that have standalone fire agencies continue to have their own regulatory processes for permitting fireworks shows.
People can report illegal fireworks via the sheriff’s non-emergency enforcement line, 1-800-950-2444, or at the web portal www.riversidesheriff.org/555/fireworks.
In 2020, a series of illicit fireworks-related incidents occurred on or just before Independence Day that some officials attributed to “lockdown fever,” with people seeking outlets amid coronavirus-related restrictions, which resulted in most public fireworks shows being canceled countywide that summer.
Multiple brush fires erupted, causing property damage but no injuries.
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