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Fourth of July brings fun, funds and concern

Hours for fireworks sales and displays in Costa Mesa will stay the same as last year. Many school groups sell them to fundraise.

June 20, 2012|By Alicia Lopez, Special to the Daily Pilot

An often controversial issue in Costa Mesa, the sale and display of fireworks means a few days of more noise, more people and more police.

But Costa Mesa police Lt. Mark Manley said it is important to the department to allow people to enjoy the Fourth of July holiday while making sure they stay safe. The problem isn't with people using the designated "safe and sane" fireworks sold at stands within the city, but rather it is the paraphernalia brought in from outside that causes concern, he said.

"There are those who fire off illegal fireworks that are not safe and sane and are a safety hazard," he said. "You can imagine if people shoot them off and they land on the Westside in Fairview Park or in the riverbed area."

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Last year, the council approved an citywide extension of fireworks sales and displays. Manley said there are no planned changes to those regulations this year.

Fireworks may be sold beginning June 30 and discharged starting July 2.

According to a 2011 post-Fourth of July report to then-interim Police Chief Dennis Kies, the department was able to handle the change in police activity.

The report shows that between July 1 and July 4, 455 calls for service were reported — 387 routine fireworks calls requiring no contact and handled on a case-by-case prioritized basis, 59 requiring a police officer response and contact, and nine handled by the Fire Department.

"Based upon all of the available information, although there was an increase in the number of days to use fireworks and this increased the number of calls for service, staff reported fewer complaints and adequate staffing to appropriately handle the higher call volume," the report stated.

Councilman Steve Mensinger called last year's extension a test and said it went well, but there is still a problem with illegal fireworks.

"We have asked police and fire to focus intensely on trying to control the illegal fireworks," he said.

One of the main reasons the city still allows fireworks is that selling them benefits school and community programs.

Costa Mesa High School PTA President Jennifer Piatti said she is involved with several school booster clubs and, in most cases, fireworks sales are those clubs' biggest fundraiser of the year.

Last year, the Costa Mesa High's drama department raised $4,352. She said like many groups, drama will need to make the money last.

"Band, performing art boosters, cheer and aquatics have programs that run all year long, not just for a season," she said.

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