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Challenging tradition

Sales of fireworks at booths in local shopping centers remain robust this Fourth of July despite an extremely high fire danger and an increased call by many residents to ban them.

Fireworks provide a key source of funding for local charities, say church and school youth groups who have come to rely on the money each Independence Day. They are becoming more of a rarity within cities, however.

“When I was a boy, my father introduced fireworks on Fourth of July,” said Bill Dondono of Camptonville, who was buying fireworks at a stand in Glenbrook Basin with his two boys. “It’s fun and pretty, and it’s neat to hear the loud pops.”



Dondono said he will light the fireworks at the Raley’s parking lot in Grass Valley.

This year people are spending an average of $50 on fireworks, said Nicholas Murray, who worked at a booth for the Calvary Bible Church in the parking lot in front of Blockbuster Video on Taylorville Road in Grass Valley. Some purchases are as high as $600, he added.




“Some have no problem with that,” he said.

Big sellers this year are large fireworks with names such as Titanic and Mighty Max for grand finales and assortment packs called The Big One selling for $200. People deliberately look for the label, “maximum powder allowed by law,” Murray said.

This year the Calvary Bible Church expects to raise $10,000 for missionary work in Mexico.

“It’s for a great cause,” said Murray.

Firefighters remain confident

Despite the extreme fire conditions, Grass Valley firefighters remain confident the holiday will pass without incident because of increased patrols and restrictions.

Seven staffed fire stations along the corridor of highways 49 and 20 will be poised to snuff out fires, officials said. Grass Valley is adding six additional fire prevention people to patrol the city.

“There’s never been a significant problem with fireworks sold in Grass Valley,” said Fire Chief Jim Marquis. “I think the awareness will be so high this year.”

Fire crews that put in extra hours on the Fourth also are fully reimbursed by fireworks distributors, Marquis said.

Marquis estimates fire crews from the joint agencies will rack up 50 to 75 hours of overtime patrolling booths before the holiday and during the six-hour window when residents raise a contained ruckus. The amount could total “a few thousand dollars,” he estimated.

As many as 300 people crowd the parking lot where the Calvary Church booth is located and thousands more set off fireworks in front of Raley’s and Kmart.

The unregulated use of candles and cigarettes poses a greater risk, said Marquis.

Each year agencies get dozens of calls, but usually parties have left the scene by the time crews get to the site.

“It’s been pretty minimal,” said Tim Fike, chief of Nevada County Consolidated Fire.

Officials could re-examine bans on fireworks in coming years as conditions worsen and fire seasons grow in intensity.

The idea worries some residents. “This is a tradition we’ve been having since the first Independence Day,” said Mary Ann Murray, working at the Calvary Church fireworks booth. “I’m 70 and I can’t remember not having fireworks on the Fourth of July.

ooo

To contact Staff Writer Laura Brown, e-mail laurab@theunion.com or call

477-4231.

Restrictions on fireworks

– Fireworks use is only allowed in certain areas of Grass Valley and Nevada City. Fireworks sellers are required to issue maps of designated areas.

– Fireworks use is allowed between the hours of 6 p.m. and midnight on the Fourth of July only.

– Fireworks shall only be the “safe and sane” kind approved by the California State fire marshal. State law mandates a fine of at least $500 and/or a year in jail upon conviction for violating fireworks laws.

– The sale of fireworks to any person under the age of 18 is prohibited.

– Proper supervision is required to prevent injury and fires.

Call the Grass Valley Fire Department with any questions at 274-4370.


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