The Bakersfield Fire Department knows that illegal activity does not take a holiday, and especially when it comes to the Fourth of July, they're always on the lookout for firework usage that is against the law.
“We have to beef up enforcement every year, because it seems to be an increasing issue every year,” Bakersfield Fire Department Fire Chief, Anthony Galagaza said.
Working for the fire department can be very unpredictable, but one thing Galagaza said BFD anticipates every Fourth of July: people using illegal fireworks. Last year, according to BFD, they received about 1800 calls related to illegal fireworks between July 1st-5th.
“They go into the air, and they explode, and just like Ground Blooms, people wouldn’t understand, Piccolo Petes and ten-inch sparklers, those are dangerous as well, and those others that shoot in the air," Galagaza said. "We just think of the large ones that go off in the distance. It’s not just those [that are dangerous].”
BFD fire investigators and officers from the Bakersfield Police Department get dispatched together, according to Battalion Chief in charge of BFD’s Fire Investigations Division, Jimmy Cherry. They’ll suit up in tactical vests and rely on their fire investigator training to keep them safe when searching for illegal fireworks.
“With the citizens of Bakersfield’s help, if they can give us a definitive address, we can actually locate people," Cherry said. "We can locate them firing off illegal fireworks, or we can see the spent fireworks, or tubes or empty Roman candle tubes, so we have evidence to write the administrative citation."
That administrative citation can be up to $1000. A monetary fine is not the worst thing that can happen when using illegal fireworks, according to Galagaza.
“Safe and sane [fireworks] is the only way to go, because every year, your Bakersfield firefighters have to go into these situations, where they turn out [to be] illegal fireworks [to finding] injuries and burn injuries to children, and that’s unacceptable. And I know no one wants that to happen to their families, but it does every year.”