SANTA MARIA, Calif. -- The City of Santa Maria is using state-of-the art aerial technology to help combat the use of illegal fireworks.
"The fire department, in conjunction with the city manager's office, in conjunction with city council, has opted to take a more aggressive approach using a high altitude aircraft," said Fire Chief Todd Tuggle.
According to Tuggle, the aircraft uses a simple process to pinpoint the location of fireworks being detonated.
"It uses aircraft that flies a few thousand feet in the air," said Tuggle. "It has a high-resolution true color camera that is able to zoom in and see launches occur. From there, through the GPS technology, can identify the parcel of land that the firework was launched from. From that point, we can administer citations to those individuals, either the property owners or the occupants for the illegal launch of those fireworks."
The use of illegal aerial fireworks has been an increasing issue within the city over the past several years.
The city said the new technology is in response to hundreds of public complaints each year, and to uphold the law.
"Aerial fireworks are an enormous risk to the population," said Tuggle. "We've heard lots of complaints about the affects on our veteran community and PTSD and the explosions and what that causes. We've also heard a lot from our community regarding pets and the impacts it has. It's essentially a nuisance in our community for a big portion of it."
Tuggle added the use of illegal fireworks also poses a significant safety hazard due to current conditions.
"We have the very severe risk that launching a firework into the air, not knowing where it's going to land, not having any mitigation factors in effect, what that present as a fire hazard to our community," said Tuggle. "We are in a drought this year. We've seen low levels of rain. We know we have dry vegetation. We have dry leaves and leaf litter. We have dry refuse around the city that is a potential fire risk, and now when we introduce illegal aerial fireworks into the equation, the fallout from those fireworks presents a severe ignition threat to our community."
Individuals caught using illegal fireworks or property owners of an identified address where illegal fireworks have been launched face a $1,000 fine.
The city is encouraging the public to celebrate the holiday with safe-and-sane fireworks that go on sale Tuesday at noon.
"If we're going to celebrate the Fourth of July, let's do the legal way, which are on sale throughout the city," said Tuggle. "Please use those fireworks that are available. They are legal and they are safe and sane, and please, do not launch fireworks into the air for the sake of your neighbors, for the sake of our veteran community and the fire hazard that it presents."