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New Ordinance Brings Big Fines For Fireworks

There is a new ordinance that has been passed in the City of Riverbank by the City Council, taking an aggressive approach to stop the use of illegal fireworks. The public is being asked to report illegal fireworks to a non-emergency number: 209-552-2474 for police and 209-863-7129 which is a special illegal fireworks reporting hotline available from July 4 through 6 from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. that will be manned by city staff.

City Manager Sean Scully and Riverbank Police Services Chief Erin Kiely along with City Code Enforcement Officers had collaborated to work out details and specifics of the new ordinance and how the holiday will be handled.

Each year Scully noted that the illegal fireworks have been getting worse to the point that the City Council last year made it a point to create a subcommittee that included Councilmember Cal Campbell and Councilmember Cindy Fosi to develop an ordinance.

“There hasn’t been a major catastrophe recently but in other communities locally there have been pretty serious public safety problems as a result of these whether it is people injuring themselves or their neighbors,” said Scully. “Each year the perception is the problem gets a little worse to the point where if you are hanging around Riverbank on the Fourth of July you can hear a war zone going on outside of your windows.”

A concern from the public has been that they worry about illegal aerial fireworks falling into their yard and starting a fire or burning their house down.

This in turn was cause for the council to create a new ordinance that is aggressive with stiff penalties and no warning period.

Those that are in possession of illegal fireworks, unlawful discharge of illegal fireworks, or unlawful selling or making of illegal fireworks will receive a citation of $1,000 for the first offense, $2,000 for the second, and $3,000 for the third time.

“This is a no-tolerance kind of ordinance,” added Scully. “If you are caught you are going to get a ticket. It is a $1,000 fine the first time and it jumps up from there. So now that we have the tools of the ordinance to go out and assess these fines, we are going to be out watching. We have additional police that have been authorized overtime. We are having internal staff here work those dates to take complaints and investigate and issue citations.”

There will be dedicated police officers and code enforcement officers that will be monitoring the illegal fireworks and after calls come in to the non-emergency hotline, they will investigate the complaints.

In the past illegal fireworks were under the general health and safety code or penal code and according to Scully this new ordinance is a municipal fine that the city assesses.

The ‘Safe and Sane’ fireworks are allowed, and most stands are run by non-profit charities used for fundraising purposes. The following non-profits are listed with the location that they will be at: Central Valley Community Resources, Crossroads Shopping Center 2237 Claribel Road; RHS Athletics Boosters, Galaxy Theater 2525 Patterson Road: Community Praise Tabernacle Church, O’Brien’s Shopping Center 6331 Oakdale Road; Pentecostals of Riverbank Church, Sno-White Restaurant 3442 Atchison St.; RHS Music Boosters, Riverbank Station Center (CVS) 2224 Patterson Road; and Assembly of God Church, Monschein, 6344 Roselle Ave.

Stands are allowed to go up on June 26 and need to be removed by July 7. The use of legal fireworks is only allowed between June 28 through July 6 between 12 p.m. and 10 p.m. in Riverbank.

“The best case scenario is that people see this new information and decide not to do it,” expressed Scully of the use of illegal fireworks. “The real goal of the ordinance is primarily the illegal stuff. It is not about the City of Riverbank trying to dictate Fourth of July activities for people; it is that illegal fireworks are illegal for a reason, because they are really dangerous and they hurt people and they cause fires and we are just at a point now that the problem is bad enough in Riverbank that we can’t have a soft approach.”