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Big bang problem: Aerial and high powered illegal fireworks already going off

Illegal fireworks
ABC Los Angeles
Illegal fireworks are a dangerous threat to lives and property. (Photo: ABC Los Angeles)

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Window shaking blasts are going off almost nightly now with the increasing number of illegal fireworks on the Central Coast.

Fire investigators say only a few communities including Santa Maria and Fillmore will be allowed to sell "Safe and Sane" fireworks for a limited number of days prior to and including the 4th of July.

All other areas have a ban on fireworks.

Residents on Santa Barbara's Westside are among the locations where complaints have been coming in from residents who say the nightly blasts are a nuisance if not more.

Some say it sounds like gunshots. Children have told their parents they are scared by the sounds.

Pet owners say their dogs are reacting and frightened.

Many people are sounding off on social media posts about the blasts and who might be responsible.

Anyone with illegal fireworks can face prosecution up to a felony depending on the amount of explosive and the type of rockets they have.

Santa Barbara City Councilmember Oscar Gutierrez lives on the Westside where the blasts have taken place for over a week. "I hear my neighbors' dogs start barking as soon as the bangs go off. It's pretty inconsiderate of people."

The past weekend, police in Lompoc, Ventura and Santa Barbara had a list of 911 calls from residents frightened by the powerful blasts they are hearing on the ground and in the sky.

Nick Bodden, a Santa Barbara business owner, said, "I understand why it does. I have a two-and-a-half year old daughter. It sounds like gunshots."

​ Santa Barbara City Fire Marshal Joe Poire said the sound indicates what they are dealing with even without seeing it. "Whenever you hear a very loud boom, that is an explosive device, not a firework. Fireworks, even the dangerous kind, are typically skyrockets and they make a little pop."

The sale, possession and use of fireworks in many cities such as Santa Barbara comes with a zero-tolerance enforcement.

"If you have fireworks we're gonna taken them, it doesn't matter if they are safe and san, it doesn't matter what you paid for them," said Poire.
The threat of injuries, property damage and brushfires is real. "We've had fires on the Riviera, we've had fires on TV Hill that have been started by fireworks in the past," said Poire.

Fireworks can result in a citation or an arrest in cities where they are banned.

Poire said, "if you possess a destructive device and you throw it at somebody else or in somebody else's direction, that's also subject to criminal prosecution."

Gutierrez said, "those can cause some serious damage to a person or property, so I wish they weren't setting off stuff like that here."

Fireworks you may buy elsewhere where they are allowed, such as from a non-profit fundraising stand, you can only use where you buy them.  "The fireworks in Santa Barbara are illegal everywhere, so it is not even a question here about what is illegal. Safe and Sane is illegal here," said Poire.

Crime / Fire / Santa Barbara- S County / Santa Maria - Lompoc - North County / Ventura County / Video

John Palminteri

John Palminteri is senior reporter for KEYT NewsChannel 3 and KCOY 12 Central Coast News.

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