VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Every year on the Fourth of July, Americans all across the United States and the world celebrate Independence Day. This day remembers the Continental Congress's adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, breaking away from Great Britain.
Along with barbecues and beaches, the Fourth of July is known for fireworks. John Adams predicted the association between July 4th and fireworks the day before the Declaration was signed, and he was proved right on the very first Independence Day in 1777. This year's Independence Day will mark 239 years since the signing of the Declaration of Independence and 238 years of fireworks on the Fourth of July.
Along with colors and sounds of celebration, however, fireworks also bring the possibility of serious injuries or even death. People go to the emergency room every year for fireworks-related injuries to the eyes, head, hands, arms, and bodies. In 2013, the recreational use of fireworks has led to explosions, massive head trauma, building fires and at least eight casualties.
During the period surrounding the Fourth of July in 2013, an estimated 7,400 fireworks-related injuries were treated in U.S. hospital emergency rooms, with a total of 11,400 injuries overall. It is important to be aware of what fireworks are legal in your area and to be very careful when using any fireworks.
Many people think sparklers are relatively safe and therefore suitable for kids and adults of all ages. However, besides being illegal in California, sparklers can burn up to 2,000 degrees. That is as hot as a blow torch and very dangerous.
In the State of California, the only legal fireworks are "Safe and Sane" fireworks, which always have the State Fire Marshal Seal displayed on the packaging. Any fireworks that do not have that seal are illegal, whether they are purchased in California or brought from out of state. These are considered "dangerous fireworks" and include fireworks that fly or explode, such as fountains, sparklers, wheels, smoke and snake items. All pyrotechnic items, including emergency flares, are included in the California code. Please check with your local authorities for clarification before possessing or using any of these.
Criminal Penalties: In California, possession of illegal fireworks ("dangerous fireworks" and/or fireworks without the State Fire Marshall Seal) can result in fines from $500 to $50,000 and/or imprisonment for up to one year depending on the amount of fireworks. Not all California towns and cities have the same restrictions or permits: if you legally buy fireworks in one city, just leaving that city with the fireworks could subject you to criminal penalties.
Civil Penalties: Additionally, any use of fireworks, whether legal or illegal, that results in personal injury or property damage can lead to you being sued in civil court. These suits could result in you paying significant amounts of money out of your own pocket.
Santa Maria, Guadalupe: These are the only cities that allow limited purchase and use of approved "Safe and Sane" fireworks within the city limits. You must be at least 16 years old to purchase fireworks, and you cannot take fireworks purchased in these cities outside city limits. Any "dangerous fireworks" or fireworks without the State Fire Marshal Seal are illegal.
Vandenberg AFB: All fireworks are illegal on the base. You may not possess or use any fireworks. The ongoing drought and current fire season intensifies the high risk of fire. The possibility of danger to people, property, and the mission makes illegal fireworks not worth the celebration. Please see below for public fireworks shows in the area. If you see anyone using fireworks on base, please call Security Forces at 606-3911.
Lompoc: The City of Lompoc prohibits the possession, storage, sale, use, or handling of any fireworks. "Safe and Sane" fireworks are only allowed on July 4th from 9 a.m. through 10 pm.
Solvang, Buellton, Santa Ynez: Solvang only allows firework use by experienced professionals for established civic celebrations with a permit. Both Solvang and Buellton require express approval via permit from the city manager or council. Santa Barbara County prohibits fireworks in all unincorporated areas.
Arroyo Grande, Grover Beach, and Oceano: "Safe and Sane" fireworks are permitted in these areas. Grover Beach additionally restricts use to individuals 18 years of age or older, unless a person under 18 is supervised by someone 21 years or older. Remember, you cannot take even "Safe and Sane" fireworks from one city to another where fireworks are prohibited.
Pismo Beach and Avila Beach: Both Pismo and Avila Beaches prohibit the possession, use, and handling of any fireworks. Not even "Safe and Sane" fireworks are allowed.
Public Fireworks Displays in the Area: If you would like to enjoy fireworks on Fourth of July weekend, but want to avoid possible injuries, fines, and penalties, there are many public fireworks displays scheduled. Santa Maria has a free concert and fireworks show on July 4th at the Santa Maria Fairpark, with fireworks starting at 9 p.m. The City of Lompoc is already selling tickets for a fireworks show taking place at the Lompoc High School stadium starting at 5:30 p.m. on July 4th. Pismo Beach is having a free July 4th celebration 10 a.m. through 11 p.m. with fireworks beginning at 9 p.m. off the pier. Solvang is having its Independence Day Festival & Fireworks Show at the Old Mission Santa Ines starting at 1:30 p.m., with fireworks at 9 p.m. - admission is free for active duty military and their families with IDs.
Fireworks are not the only risk to your health and safety on Fourth of July weekend. July 4th is historically the deadliest driving day for Americans. Alcohol plays a factor in about 41 percent of car crashes on that day, but simply the vast number of people out on the roads increases your chances of an accident. Remember to be safe wherever you are, do not drink and drive, and watch out for your friends and family, whether you are using fireworks, alcohol, or during any other Independence Day celebrations. Have a fun weekend but be "Safe and Sane." Happy Fourth of July!