March 14, 2007

Stockton CA Backyard fireworks ban likely

By David Siders
Record Staff Writer
March 15, 2007 6:00 AM

STOCKTON - The city is likely to outlaw spinners, cone fountains and other backyard, or "safe and sane," fireworks this year.

A City Council panel on Wednesday recommended the full council adopt a formal ban, one firefighters believed existed and was enforced for years until finding last year the rule did not exist.

"It's a public safety issue," Police Chief Wayne Hose told the panel.

The full council rarely, if ever, overturns a recommendation of the council's legislative panel, the committee that considered the ban. Fireworks designated by the state to be safe and sane are legal unless a county or city adopts an ordinance outlawing them.

The panel rejected an appeal by a fireworks company and by local Christian school that sells safe and sane fireworks to raise money but has previously had to travel outside Stockton to sell them.

Safe and sane fireworks - typically those that do not fly or explode - are legal in Manteca, Ripon and Escalon but not in Tracy, Lodi and unincorporated San Joaquin County, according to a list compiled by fire officials last year.

Were the Stockton City Council to allow safe and sane fireworks, Deputy Fire Chief Dave Hafey warned that peddlers of fireworks that are not so designated - including illegal firecrackers and rockets - would sell them illegally near legitimate stands.

Other cities that have allowed safe and sane fireworks have been so troubled, officials said.

The Rev. Steve Kihlthau of Stockton Baptist Church said Stockton Baptist School has raised as much as $12,000 to $15,000 some summers selling safe and sane fireworks, most recently in the Stanislaus County town of Westley, where they are legal. That the fireworks are called "safe and sane," he said, suggests the state does not find them hazardous.

TNT Fireworks Inc.'s Louis Linney told the panel illegal fireworks sales hurt legitimate business and that TNT could work with cities to discourage misuse.

Councilman Clem Lee, a panel member, said that to allow fireworks would force police, who have more serious matters to deal with, to monitor the use of fireworks. "This is not what we need to saddle our guys with," he said.

He said to prohibit safe and sane fireworks would do no more than codify long-standing city policy.

The full council is likely to consider the matter this month or next.

The city's consideration of a fireworks ban follows by one month the city's announcement that its public fireworks show at Weber Point was too dangerous to go on. Fire officials have said they are looking for a different site.

Contact reporter David Siders at (209) 943-8580 or dsiders Visit his blog.