WATSONVILLE — Fireworks booths are sprouting up throughout Watsonville, and Fourth of July revelers are preparing to set them off in that city and Capitola – the only places they are allowed in Santa Cruz County.
Meanwhile, officials in the rest of the county are warning residents to stow the fireworks, or face serious fines.
Anyone driving around Watsonville will soon see several booths selling “safe and sane” fireworks — those that do not explode or leave the ground.
The City of Santa Cruz, for example, normally imposes “triple fine zone,” with fines starting at well over $300 for each fireworks violation. That is not including court costs, which can add up to more than $1,000.
Watsonville’s fireworks sales booths this years are run by 22 nonprofit organizations such as Watsonville PAL, Pajaro Valley Girls Softball, Watsonville Buddhist Temple and Watsonville High School Soccer.
For many of the organizations, the fireworks sale is the biggest fundraiser of the year.
Even where fireworks are permitted, teams of officers and firefighters will be on the lookout for illegal fireworks.
They will also be making sure people are using “safe and sane” fireworks.
Use is prohibited on open and natural land, sloughs, watershed and wetlands areas. It is also banned on unoccupied properties.
Anyone caught lighting them elsewhere faces fines for each illicit item, whether or not they are deemed safe and sane.
Teams of firefighters and law enforcement officials will be on patrol throughout the county looking for those who possess illegal fireworks such as M-80s, bottle rockets M-100s, mortars and cherry bombs.
In Watsonville, each violation could bring a $1,000 fine.
On the prowl for lawbreakers will be the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office, California State Parks rangers, California Highway Patrol, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and local fire agencies.
Officials point out that they will also patrol beaches from the border of Monterey County to the border of San Mateo County.
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 200 people visit the emergency room during the Fourth of July holiday, along with an increase in injuries related to alcohol consumption, recreational sports and sun exposure.
Watsonville Police are asking anyone who wants to report illegal fireworks to call the city’s non-emergency dispatch line at 471-1151.
“We want to use 911 for real emergencies,” WPD spokeswoman Michelle Pulido said.
• Users must be at least 18.
• Fireworks must be lit at least 50 feet from fireworks stands
• Use is only permitted between July 1 and midnight July 5
• Glass containers, wood pallets, unleashed pets and vehicles are all prohibited on public beaches.
Police released the following safety tips for those who plan on using safe and sane fireworks:
• Have an adult supervise all fireworks activities.
• Keep a bucket of water nearby.
• Never experiment, alter the fireworks, or attempt to make your own fireworks.
• Light fireworks one at a time.
• Never throw fireworks at another person.
• Users should always wear eye protection.
• Always shoot fireworks vertically, never horizontally.
• Soak all fireworks in water overnight to avoid fires in trashcans and dumpsters.
• Never use near dry grass or other flammable materials.
• Never attempt to re-light or “fix” fireworks.