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VENTURA COUNTY FOCUS | COUNTYWIDE

Firefighters Stage Explosive Demonstration

July 01, 1998|JENNIFER HAMM

A team from the Ventura County Fire Department demonstrated the danger of legal and illegal fireworks Tuesday.

"This is one of our seasons that we celebrate, but we've found that it's also one of the most dangerous seasons," department spokeswoman Sandi Wells said after firefighters ignited a "fountain" of fireworks, which in turn set nearby brush aflame.

Firefighters also demonstrated the potential damage of M-80 fireworks.

The National Fire Protection Assn. reports thousands of people are injured each year as a result of Fourth of July fireworks, with 59% of those injuries suffered by people under age 20.

And while firework injuries have declined during the past 15 years, calls to the Fire Department increase threefold on the Fourth of July.

"Leave fireworks in the hands of the professionals," spokesman Joe Luna said. "These will hurt you."

Nearly every city in the county hosts a professional fireworks display, and fire officials believe this is the safest way to enjoy the holiday.

Although state-approved fireworks are sold in Fillmore, it is illegal to use them in any other part of the county.

And firecrackers such as M-80s and cherry bombs are illegal everywhere.

Fire officials will be on the lookout for fireworks around the county throughout the holiday weekend. Such devices will be confiscated and destroyed, Capt. Keith Mashburn said.

Officials say arrests will be made if there are a large number of fireworks.

"We look at this very seriously," Wells said.

Depending on the type of fireworks, penalties start at $500 and up to six months in jail and can go as high as $5,000 and up to five years in jail.

"It's just not worth the risk," Wells said.

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