SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. (KABC) -- Spectacular fireworks displays go hand-in-hand with the Independence Day holiday. But unfortunately, so does illegal fireworks activity as we approach the Fourth of July.
San Bernardino county fire marshal Mike Horton says not only are they a nuisance; they can be especially troubling for our pets, as well as veterans who suffer from PTSD.
While so-called "Safe and Sane" fireworks are banned throughout most of Southern California, Horton said it's the larger fireworks that explode high into the air that can be especially dangerous.
"Those are the ones that hurt children. Those are the ones that cause fires."
Horton said their efforts start with the confiscation of as many illegal fireworks as possible. Quite often, he says illegal fireworks are brought in by the truckload from out of state. A recent sting operation set up at a checkpoint on Interstate 15 north of Barstow netted more than 18,000 pounds of illegal fireworks.
"It's literally shooting fish in the barrel," said Horton. During the operation, firefighters would stand next to agricultural inspection authorities, and stop vehicles for illegal fireworks when they had probable cause to initiate a search.
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"As soon as they reach the state line, all dangerous and illegal fireworks are collected and confiscated. And citations are issued."
At the neighborhood level, their department is focused on enforcement. The San Bernardino county sheriff's department has announced that there will be an increased number of deputies on patrol during July 2nd through July 4th this year.
Although Horton says admittedly, catching people in the act of shooting off illegal fireworks can be difficult.
"When there are fireworks in the air, there's not a whole lot we can do. By the time we're there, people are gone. There's nothing to look at, and we're just chasing our tails."
But Horton said San Bernardino county residents can report illegal fireworks activity at https://bit.ly/3rD7jyt. People can remain anonymous, and they can even attach pictures and videos that they obtain. Horton said his department will be plotting all of that information on a map, and heading out to those "hot spots" to focus their patrol efforts this weekend.
"During our live patrol dates, we tend to get a lot of activity, and we're quite successful at making contacts. And you have to keep in mind these tickets are $1,250 a piece starting."
Fines can increase up to $5,000 for a third offense. And those fines can be attached to individual property owners, where Horton said there's a 98% collection rate.