The days of firing bottle rockets in celebration of Independence Day are-at least in California-long gone, but now sparklers, snakes, and other non-explosive fireworks deemed safe and sane by the current state fire code are also off limits in the unincorporated areas of Santa Barbara County. The Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday, June 17, to support an ordinance introduced by the County Fire Marshal making the possession, sale, and use of all fireworks illegal in areas within the County’s jurisdiction. “We want fireworks used only by trained, professional pyrotechnics display operations,” said Santa Barbara County Fire Department spokesman Captain Eli Iskow. “‘Safe and sane’ fireworks are extremely dangerous.” Second District Supervisor Janet Wolf noted that many fires-causing property damage and personal injury-have been caused by sparklers and snakes over the years. Only halfway through the month of June, California already has three major fires burning-The Indians Fire in the Los Padres National Forest, near King City; the Martin Fire in the Santa Cruz Mountains; and one in Butte County, north of Sacramento. Those fires, in addition to the state of drought called by the governor just over a week ago, were cause for concern at County Fire headquarters as the July 4 holiday approaches.
Third District Supervisor Brooks Firestone was the lone voice of dissent on the ordinance, stating a belief in “individual responsibility,” and comparing the fireworks ban to the British oppression they were supposed to celebrate freedom from. The other supervisors, however, were more convinced by the flammable qualities of the dry grasses covering much of the County’s landscape-the original Independence Day was celebrated in the much more humid environs of the Eastern seaboard. “In light of the serious fire season we’re anticipating, this is the most prudent thing we can do,” said First District Supervisor Salud Carbajal.
Although the use of fireworks has been banned by the county, cities have their own ordinances. The City of Santa Maria, long known for its relatively lax fireworks laws, will still allow the ‘”safe and sane” variety of fireworks. Supervisor Joe Centeno, who lives there, said he planned to wave a sparkler outside his house on the 4th, but that doing so in the city’s tinder-dry hinterlands was probably not a good idea. “We want everyone to be careful, but it doesn’t mean you can’t have a good time,” said Iskow. “There are a number of really great fireworks displays that people can go see that are much safer.”