By GENEVIEVE BOOKWALTER
Independence Day falls in the wrong season.
If it came in the middle of winter, fireworks might not be illegal in Tuolumne and some parts of Calaveras counties. But at the height of summer, when dead, gold grass blankets the foothills and temperatures hang out in the 100s, it's not a good time for bottle rockets and whistling Petes, said Richard Imlach, Battalion chief with California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
"It's really too bad that we don't have the Fourth of July in January, when there's no fire danger, but that'll never change," Imlach said.
Instead, Imlach and other fire officials in the Mother Lode plan to spend their holiday weekend looking out for fires caused by sparklers, ground blooms and M80s.
The most common places to find them are around New Melones, at the Parrotts Ferry lookout and along roadways.
"Kids throw fireworks out of cars and start wildland fires," Imlach said. He added later, "Don't just drive someplace with a shoulder and set them off."
Instead, Imlach said people wanting to blow off fireworks should buy those with a "safe and sane" label, and do it in designated spots in Calaveras County. Fireworks without that label are illegal in California. All fireworks are illegal everywhere in Tuolumne County.
Fireworks in Calaveras should be lit on blacktop or gravel, away from people, grass and shake roofs. They are not allowed on public property or Forest Service land.
If a firework doesn't go off, it should be left alone for at least 10 minutes before it can be touched, said Tuolumne County Fire Marshal Kary Hubbard. Then it should be picked up and placed immediately in water, to ensure the firework doesn't go off later and hurt someone or start a fire. When handling fireworks, never place your face directly above the explosive.
"These never go where you think they're going to," Imlach said.
Contact Genevieve Bookwalter at gbookwalter@u niondemocrat.com.
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