Fireworks sales to continue |

Fireworks sales to continue

Fireworks sales are scheduled to begin at noon Saturday in Grass Valley, the only city in western Nevada County where safe and sane fireworks will be sold this Independence Day holiday.

Though smoke from Yuba River Complex wildfires shrouded the colorful stands on city streets Wednesday, the decision to continue the sales – unless winds and heat pick up – makes residents safer, Fire Chief Jim Marquis said.

“It’s counter-intuitive,” Marquis said.

But statewide statistics show fewer than 1 percent of wildland fires are caused by fireworks, and most of those that are stem from the use of illegal fireworks.

“If we were to ban fireworks here, 99 percent of people would go, ‘Darn,’ and live with it,” Marquis said. “But the 1 percent we feel we’re risk-managing with our current policy … is going to find fireworks and have fun with them, and do it where people won’t see it.”

That could lead to fires in remote areas that are hard to reach with firefighting equipment, Marquis added.

His position runs counter to that of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who called on Californians to help local fire departments by turning their backs on the yearly tradition.

“Don’t buy the fireworks,” the governor said Wednesday while viewing the damage of fires in Monterey County. “Don’t go out and play with fireworks, because it’s just too dry and too dangerous to do those things.”

Locally, many people fear irresponsible fireworks use could spark a disastrous wildfire in the county, where vegetation in the late spring already was as dry as August in a year of average rainfall.

Nevada City council members recently canceled sales, which are small in the county seat, and are considering banning fireworks altogether.

Local nonprofit groups such as churches, high school bands and athletic clubs use the proceeds to support their activities.

But unless temperatures grow much hotter and northerly winds start to gust, risk inside city limits is low, Marquis said.

“If it gets so dangerous in terms of fire weather that using even safe and sane fireworks becomes a danger, then that would be a tipping point,” he said.

To ensure safety, use fireworks made specifically for sale in California; many types sold in Nevada are illegal here, Marquis said. Do not modify fireworks or throw them up in the air, Marquis said.

The city allows fireworks to be used only between 6 p.m. and midnight on July 4, and they are illegal outside city limits.

To contact City Editor Trina Kleist, e-mail or call 477-4230.

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