The Fourth of July fireworks, a time honored tradition, are spectacular in Petaluma. An estimated 13,000 people gathered in and around the Sonoma-Marin Fairgrounds this July 4 for a professional pyrotechnic show that wowed onlookers young and old.
Unfortunately, this was not the only fireworks show on display last Tuesday. The Petaluma Police Department received more than 200 fireworks-related calls on July 4. The fire department issued three citations for possession of illegal fireworks, and responded to several fires ignited by illegal fireworks. Numerous pets were terrified from the noises, causing several to run away from their homes.
Petaluma is one of four cities in Sonoma County where so-called safe and sane fireworks are legal. Fireworks are banned in the unincorporated county and in Santa Rosa, the largest city. But the legal fireworks in Petaluma seem to be somewhat of a gateway for the illegal and more dangerous kind.
The legal fireworks are contained to the ground and do not shoot up into the air with the potential of landing in a dry field or a rooftop. In a city where all fireworks are illegal, like Santa Rosa, it would be easier to patrol for scofflaws — any smoke, noise or bright light that is not from the official fireworks show would be suspected as illegal pyrotechnics.
But in Petaluma, legal fireworks can provide cover for the illegal variety, making it harder for officials to patrol. The spike in illegal fireworks and the calls for service indicates it is time for Petaluma to rethink its stance on legal fireworks.
Certainly some of the nonprofits in Petaluma would be disappointed since the sale of fireworks raises funds for their causes. But there are plenty of other ways that nonprofits can raise funds without selling cheap, dangerous fireworks that often do not work properly and which often cause injuries to users.
Safe and sane fireworks are not very spectacular and can lead to the use of dangerous illegal fireworks. The safer, saner idea would be to ban all fireworks in Petaluma.
Except, of course, the professional show at the fairgrounds. That traditional event, which would be even more widely attended if consumer fireworks were outlawed, truly is spectacular.