‘Rude awakening’ for Fourth

Shooting off fireworks in Pacifica will come with stringent restrictions July Fourth now that city officials have enacted hefty fines to prevent their beaches from transforming into a virtual war zone.

In one of only two cities in San Mateo County that allows the sale of “safe and sane” fireworks, people will now face fines of up to $1,000 or six months in jail for violating a newly minted fireworks ordinance.

Pacifica residents have long disagreed about the sale of legal fireworks that provide funding for local school athletics, but make it harder for police to control the influx of illegal fireworks in town.

“On a foggy night, it’s like walking around London in the 19th century — it’s so polluted by chemicals,” said Lionel Emde, a member of the Fireworks Task Force that helped draft the ordinance.

Police, city officials and many citizens say they hope the new fines will create a safer atmosphere.

“It’ll be a rude awakening for some people,” said Councilmember Cal Hinton, who is a licensed pyrotechnic operator. “After a couple of heavy fines, they might understand that some fireworks are dangerous because they can injure someone or start a fire, and this is a bad year for fire.”

People with “safe and sane” fireworks may receive fines ranging from $200 to $1,000 if they discharge them after hours, have unsupervised children or release them over someone’s property. Those caught with illegal fireworks will face a $1,000 city fine in addition to an arrest that can lead to a fine or six months in county jail, according to Capt. David Bertini of the Pacifica Police Department.

“We expect a lot of wide-eyed surprise when they’re told they have to pay $1,000 to the city,” he said.

Some residents say they think a $1,000 fine for fireworks violations is excessive.

“Maybe we should have an ordinance, but not something that tough,” said Deb Wong, who used to live in Pacifica but resides nearby in Moss Beach. “That’s really extreme.”

But those in favor of the new ordinance said it wouldn’t do any good without the big fines.

“The fine puts teeth into an ordinance that really didn’t have any before,” Emde said. “Before, there were people who were being arrested and they would just go back out on the street. This time it would cost them $1,000 per incident, and I would hope it would be real motivation not to do it.”

svasilyuk@sfexaminer.com

Legal locations for lighting fuses

Pacifica allows “safe and sane” incendiaries at certain places.

» Manor Beach (all fireworks prohibited)

» Sharp Park Beach (all fireworks prohibited)

» Linda Mar Beach (“safe and sane” fireworks allowed)

» Rockaway Beach (“safe and sane” fireworks allowed)

» When: June 28, noon to 11 p.m.; June 29 -July 5, 9 a.m. to 11 p.m.

» Fines: $200 for first offense, $400 for second offense, $1,000 for third offense of fireworks ordinance; $1,000 for possession of illegal fireworks

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