Fullerton City Council voted 3-2 (Fitzgerald and Whitaker “no”) to place a measure on the November 2020 ballot to repeal the sale of “Safe & Sane” Fireworks in the city of Fullerton at their June 21 meeting.
Fireworks have been legal in Fullerton since 2012, when voters approved a ballot measure (by 53%) allowing for “Safe and Sane” fireworks to be sold in the City by qualified non-profits as fundraisers.
Prior to the Council vote, representatives from the Fullerton Police and Fullerton Fire departments gave presentations on calls for service, fires, and other aspects of fireworks activities in the City this year.
The Fullerton Fire Department experienced a notable increase in calls for service and responded to 51 calls on July 4. Fourteen of those calls were fire responses, 5 of which were incidents immediately able to be determined as related to fireworks. All incidents involved vegetation and/or trash that was ignited by unsafe detonation or fallout from fireworks materials. The Fire Department rapidly contained and extinguished all fires without further incident.
The Fire Department turned over in excess of 1,400 pounds of fireworks to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department Bomb Squad, with just over 1,000 pounds being classified as “dangerous explosives.”
The Fullerton Police Department reported receiving 509 fireworks-related calls between 12am July 1 through 3am July 5. Of these, 320 calls were received between 12am on July 4 and 3am July 5.
During the month of June 2020, the Police Department received 840 fireworks calls. This is the highest number of calls since 2016.
The Police Department confiscated nearly 1,100 pounds of illegal fireworks in 2020.
Public comments were fairly divided on the issue. Those in favor of keeping fireworks legal included representatives of nonprofits and youth sports teams whose annual fireworks booths are a lucrative fundraiser, and the owner of TNT Fireworks in Fullerton.
Those opposed to keeping fireworks legal were local residents who spoke of the mental and emotional trauma of constant fireworks before, during, and after the 4th of July.
Mayor Pro Tem Jan Flory, who voted to approve the ballot measure, said, “Year after year there’s a drumbeat of concern about fireworks, and I understand that many of them are not attributable to the “Safe and Sane” fireworks. That said, this community has experienced fireworks for 8 years and I think it’s time for the voters to be able to say “yea” or “nay” on it.”
Councilmember Jesus Silva, who also voted to approve the ballot measure, said, “I know that most of the calls are related to the illegal fireworks, but we’ve had so many calls and complaints about the noise…for my first 22 years living here, it was much more pleasant on the 4th of July. It’s gotten really intense. There are other ways for non-profits to do fundraising.”
Councilmember Bruce Whitaker, who opposed the ballot measure, said that the problem is not safe and sane fireworks, but illegal fireworks.
Mayor Jennifer Fitzgerald echoed this point, adding that the sale of fireworks is an important fundraiser for local non-profits.
Councilmember Ahmad Zahra, who voted to approve the ballot measure, said that the fundraising should not come at the expense of hurting people with PTSD, kids with special needs, and pets.
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