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Warning that igniting fireworks can lead to threats to life and property, Riverside officials Tuesday urged the public to enjoy city-sponsored shows instead of illegally setting off pyrotechnics on their own.

“I couldn’t be more excited to celebrate the birth of our nation,” Mayor Patricia Lock Dawson said during a briefing outside City Hall. “But we need to make sure we so in a safe manner.”

Dawson was joined by representatives from the fire and police departments to stress the dangers of non-permitted use of fireworks, which can result in municipal fines up to $1,000 and even jail time in extreme cases.

“We’re all really excited and ready to celebrate the Fourth of July this year,” Councilman Steve Hemenway said. “Fireworks are illegal in the city for a reason. Let’s do our part to keep the community and public safety personnel out of harm’s way.”

According to Interim Fire Department Chief LaWayne Hearn, during the 2021 Fourth of July period, crews responded to nearly 1,000 calls for service directly related to illegal fireworks.

“This period is one of the busiest times for firefighters,” Hearn said. “We have to deal with brush, rubbish and tree fires. This winter has already brought unseasonably dry conditions. Combine that with illegal fireworks, and you have a recipe for danger.”

Deputy Police Chief Bruce Blomdahl said that during last year’s Fourth of July period, officers confiscated over 800 pounds of illegal pyrotechnics and issued 31 citations for non-permitted possession and use of the devices.

“The potential for personal injury is great,” Blomdahl said. “We will actively respond to those illegally lighting fireworks.”

He and the other speakers emphasized the collateral impacts of setting off fireworks randomly, frightening pets and people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

City residents who witness illegal use of devices were asked to report them via the metro call center at 951-826-5311, or the police department’s non-emergency service line at 951-354-2007. Calls to 911 should only be related to life-threatening emergencies, Blomdahl said.

The mayor noted that the city will host two public shows, both at 9 p.m. on Monday, July 4: Bonaminio Park, 5000 Tequesquite Ave., and La Sierra Park, 5215 La Sierra Ave.

“There are many reasons why fireworks are illegal,” Dawson said. “Make the right decision. Stay safe.”

Last year, the city hosted one pyrotechnics extravaganza, and in 2020, all the shows were canceled amid the coronavirus public health lockdowns.

In Riverside County, private parties are prohibited from using fireworks except in Blythe, Coachella, Desert Hot Springs and Indio, where so-called “safe and sane” fireworks, certified by the state fire marshal, can be sold to the public.

The devices are mostly pyrotechnics that don’t explode or fly, including sparklers, ground spinners, fountains, snappers and caps. Municipalities can authorize fireworks demonstrations, and the county grants permits for shows in unincorporated communities.

Under county Ordinance 858, which was amended by the Board of Supervisors last year in response to an outbreak of blazes in 2020, fines for illegally storing, transporting or setting off fireworks can range from $1,000 to $5,000.

Any person who triggers a brush fire due to the illegal use of fireworks can be held responsible for all suppression costs. Under the revised ordinance, property owners also face liability.

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