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It's time for Calaveras leaders to snuff fireworks

Without a doubt, fireworks should be banned in Calaveras County.

Although it is too late for 2007, the Calaveras Board of Supervisors should do the right thing, the safe thing and the responsible thing. It should vote to outlaw the so-called "safe and sane" fireworks now being sold in Angels Camp and other county communities.

Yes, proceeds from their sales go to high school sports and other worthwhile causes. But the dangers these firecrackers, spinners, sparklers and pyrotechnic fountains pose can in an instant undo any good the money raised might accomplish.

Doubters need look no farther than Lake Tahoe for proof.

There a "human caused" fire of still-uncertain origin has destroyed more than 250 homes and other buildings, brought the evacuation of about 3,500 and, so far, has done more than $141 million in damage. It's left a community devastated and in ruins.

What consolation might well-equipped and coached athletic teams bring to families who have lost everything?

Fireworks may not have caused the Tahoe fire, but their mere presence in the Sierra and Mother Lode ups the ante in what is shaping up to be California's riskiest fire season in years.

Selling even the low-profile fireworks allowed under state law makes no sense. Ignite a Live Wire, Inferno or Silver Bullet in dry grass, and safe and sane quickly become unsafe and insane.

As grass and brush dries, fires are routinely caused by sparks from lawnmowers, errant cigarette ashes or a moment of inattention at a burn pile. Golf clubs hitting rocks have even triggered flames that have blackened several acres.

So imagine how dangerous fireworks might be in careless, or worse, malicious hands.

Campfires and debris burning are outlawed or tightly controlled this time of year. What is the logic of allowing fireworks?

Under California law, cities, counties and fire districts can outlaw the sale of safe and sane fireworks, otherwise allowed by the state between June 28 and July 6. Tuolumne County and Highway 4's Ebbetts Fire District, which includes the heavily forested Arnold area, have already taken this sensible step. Now it is time for the rest of Calaveras County to make the move.

Continued sale of these dangerous items is part of a contradictory mixed message being sent to Calaveras County residents and visitors alike: While fire departments and prevention officers preach extreme caution and care in the face of tinder-dry brush and grass, the continued sanction of fireworks sales by county supervisors seems to tell the public that conditions really aren't that bad after all.

The supervisors should pass an ordinance banning the sale of fireworks as soon after this year's Independence Day celebration as possible. This will give service clubs, youth sports organizations, booster groups and other organizations now depending on the sale of fireworks plenty of time to make alternate plans.

Yes, a reliable source of income will disappear. But residents of the Mother Lode — who through auctions, dinners, raffles, car washes, benefit shows and more each year give hundreds of thousands of dollars to a wide range of causes — are among the most generous in the state.

Without fireworks, they will still find a way to give. And Calaveras County will be a far safer place for it.

Union Democrat editorial positions are formed through regular meetings of the newspaper's editorial board — Publisher Geoff White, Managing Editor Patty Fuller and senior reporter-columnist Chris Bateman.

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