Fireworks laws differ in Tuolumne, Calaveras counties

By Mike Morris, The Union Democrat

While fireworks are illegal throughout Tuolumne County, they are permitted in most of Calaveras County despite historically dry conditions and a recent string of grassfires.

Rules vary because it's up to each individual county or city to decide whether or not to permit fireworks.

In Tuolumne County, it is illegal to possess, sell or use fireworks, according to a countywide ordinance passed by the Board of Supervisors. Sonora also has its own city code banning fireworks.

Although Calaveras County doesn't have rules prohibiting fireworks, county leaders are warning residents that this year's drought conditions have increased the risk of fires. They're advising residents to be extra careful if setting off fireworks next week.

"They need to be aware there are dangers, particularly in this extreme fire season," said Calaveras County Administrative Officer Lori Norton.

Norton said the county imposed a temporary ban on fireworks during the drought of 1977. Since then, she said it's her understanding that whenever the topic of banning fireworks has come up there has been community resistance as many schools and nonprofits sell fireworks to raise funds.

"There's a lot of people who think fireworks are a fundamental part of the Fourth of July," she said.

Even though the county allows fireworks, individual fire districts have the ability to be more restrictive.

For example, fireworks are illegal within the Ebbetts Pass Fire Protection District, which spans the Highway 4 corridor east of Murphys to the Alpine County line.

"Both to prevent injuries as well as the threat of wildfires - that's the rationale for our decision," said Ebbetts Pass Battalion Chief Matt O'Donnell.

Fireworks are also illegal within the Stanislaus National Forest.

"We'll have fire prevention specialists and law enforcement officers patrolling the forest to make sure there's no use of fireworks," said forest spokeswoman Veronica Garcia.

Meanwhile, the City of Angels Camp allows the use of "safe and sane" fireworks on private property only.

The city has issued four permits to vendors selling fireworks at shopping centers on the northern end of town. The county's Planning Department has also issued a permit to a fireworks vendor in Valley Springs.

On the evening of July 4, the Angels Camp Fire Department will be at the Bret Harte High School parking lot, on the north side of Murphys Grade Road, so residents can light fireworks.

"It will be a safe area available to utilize their fireworks," said Nathan Pry, the city's fire marshal.

The Union Democrat
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