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High Life: A WEEKLY FORUM FOR HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS : Fired Up for Fireworks : Celebration: To some, public displays for July 4 just don't have the all-American flash of the independents.


The prohibition against treating fire as a play toy, a rule nearly as old as parenthood itself, used to be exempted on the Fourth of July. But to the dismay of many local teen-agers, a multitude of municipal laws will once again quench the use of private fireworks.

Over the past decade many Orange County cities, as well as county-controlled unincorporated areas, have cracked down on the use of fireworks, including the so-called "safe and sane" fireworks approved by the state fire marshal. This July 4, only four county cities--Buena Park, Costa Mesa, Garden Grove and Santa Ana--will allow the discharge of state-approved fireworks.

California state law bans firecrackers, bottle rockets, M80s, cherry bombs, snap caps or any other device that explodes, darts or travels through the air, said Maria T. Sabol, spokeswoman for the Orange County Fire Department.

The traditional Independence Day celebration--games, a barbecue and, to cap off the evening, fireworks in the neighborhood--is no longer ending with a bang.

"I'm sorry to see them banned," said Morgan Howard, 18, who recently graduated from Huntington Beach High School. "We used to set them off all the time. All the people on the block would do it, and we'd have a block fireworks thing; we'd have a ball. It bonded the whole community. It was the one time that everybody was able to talk to each other."


Eden Garisek, 17, a senior at Fullerton Union High School, said that although she understood Fullerton's year-old law banning the discharging of fireworks, a part of American tradition has been destroyed.

"I could see the logic in it because of the fire hazard. But (the law has) destroyed a traditional way of celebrating American Independence Day and something that was a part of our society for a long long time."

Fullerton Fire Marshal John Clark disagrees. "I feel every bit as patriotic as I did before," he said. "I'm pleased to know that my community's safer."

Clark attributed many of the dangers of fireworks to Southern California's warm climate, which quickly dries out wood roofs and poses a fire hazard.

Buena Park has also clamped down on areas for the legal discharging of fireworks. Legal fireworks may be discharged only on private property and only with the property owner's permission. Additionally, fireworks are only allowed to be used on July 4.

Sabol said all laws will be enforced. "If anyone is discharging fireworks, we may confiscate them," she warned.

For Julie Kim, 16, the holiday's opportunities to socialize and enjoy the beginning of summer will transcend the need for pyrotechnics. She plans to have a fireworks-free birthday get-together for a friend.

"We'll barbecue outside, listen to music, talk and just hang together," said Kim, who will be a junior at the new Aliso Niguel High School in Aliso Viejo.

But teen-agers suffering withdrawal symptoms from the match-to-cone ritual needn't fear too much. Many of the cities that have outlawed fireworks are presenting alternatives such as fairs followed by fireworks displays to draw students.

Fullerton will hold a festival with bands, food and games at the Fullerton Union High School stadium beginning at 4 p.m., with fireworks at 9. Admission is $2.

Disneyland, Knott's Berry Farm and Anaheim Stadium will also have fireworks displays.

Garisek said that however spectacular the public displays may be, they will not replace the excitement of inconsistent, private fireworks.

Professional shows, she said, "are really neat, but they take away that time of family sharing and tradition, with Dad lighting the fireworks and the occasional duds which get everyone mad. All the little kids get to write their names with the sparklers. But all of it is against the law now."

The Orange County Fire Department is offering recorded information on fireworks displays at (714) 834-4532 or 744-0517.

Brian Singer, of Fullerton Union High School, is a regular contributor to High Life.

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