CATHEDRAL CITY — The future of “Safe and Sane” fireworks in this community is expected to surface for discussion after the August special election and a full complement of the City Council is seated.
Cathedral City is one of four communities in the Coachella Valley that allows “Safe and Sane” fireworks to be ignited to celebrate the Fourth of July. The other communities are Desert Hot Springs, Indio, and Coachella. They will be sold in Cathedral City this year beginning at noon on June 28 through midnight on July 4.
By definition, “Safe and Sane” fireworks are fountains, sparklers, smokeballs, snake-type fireworks, ground-spinning fireworks, pinwheels, most novelty fireworks, toy-trick noisemakers, and some crackling items—basically anything that doesn’t explode on the ground or in the air. Any aerial or exploding device is considered illegal and is subject to a fine.
Cathedral City ordinance prohibits the purchase and discharge of illegal fireworks. It imposes a $1,000 fine for the first violation issued and an additional $2,000 fine for each subsequent violation.
Whether the city continues its tradition of allowing “Safe and Sane” Fireworks remains to be seen. Questions surfaced this year as the City Council prepared to approve nonprofit applications. In some past years, there were so many applications the city had to reduce to six the number it would accept. Each permit costs $3,191.
Revenue from the permits helps off-set the cost of police overtime that accrues while law enforcement are enforcing the ordinance. Following is a snapshot of police and fire activity during the 2018 Fourth of July holiday.
- The Police and Fire Communications Center received a total of 111 fireworks related calls for service from June 30-July 5.
- 55 of the 111 calls were initiated by community members.
- 56 of the 111 calls were officer initiated.
- 277 citations were issued for possession of illegal pyrotechnics
- 600 pounds of illegal fireworks were confiscated.
- $13,320 was paid in overtime
- Between July 4-5, there were 6 fire-related incidents
This year, only four nonprofits applied for fireworks permits and one eventually pulled out. That leaves only three. Revenue once used for overtime took a hit.
With fewer applications, less revenue, and some angst regarding pyrotechnics in the city in general, the City Council is questioning whether it’s time to abandon the program, increase the permit fee, or something else.
For the past five years, Fire Chief Paul Wilson said he has recommended eliminating the “Safe and Sane” fireworks program in the community. However, he said the history of the program is important to understand. The program was born after the city eliminated the parks and recreation program and youth funding. The sale of fireworks provided an opportunity for nonprofits to raise money for youth programs.
For each of the past four years, more than $200,000 of “Safe and Sane” Fireworks have been sold in Cathedral City, Wilson said. .
Eliminating their sales could improve the public’s perception of Cathedral City, Wilson said.
“When people see fireworks stands, even though they’re selling “Safe and Sane,” they somehow interpret that fireworks are OK,” Wilson said.
There is also a down side, Wilson said. If they are banned, the city would lose revenue from the application fees – yet still have the cost of law enforcement overtime. Illegal fireworks will always be an issue, he said. Palm Springs, for example, does not sell “Safe and Sane” fireworks yet still has a problem with illegal fireworks, Wilson said.
Alan Carvalho, a resident Cathedral City, said he’s been against fireworks from the beginning.
“It’s harmful to the pets, it’s harmful to our vets, it’s harmful for our city, it’s harmful to our image,” Carvalho said. “I understand that the nonprofits benefit. There’s got to be another way. There just has to be another way. Our city’s dignity is at risk here. Notice the cities, unfortunately, with the lowest economic issues are the ones that are still holding fireworks sales. It does give an image that if they allow legal fireworks, they’ll allow illegal fireworks, and we know it’s not true.”
It’s important for the city to stand for public safety, Carvalho said.
The 2019 participating organizations and their fireworks sales locations are:
- Calvary Christian Church, 67800 Vista Chino (Stater Bros. North shopping center)
- Desert Elite Football, 68463 Ramon Road (Larry’s Deli, formerly Sossa’s)
- CCHS Lions Boosters, 31605 Date Palm (Cardena’s)
- Safe and Sane Fireworks: Cathedral City Fire Department
- Paul S. Wilson: Cathedral City Fire Department
- Alan Carvalho: Facebook
- Safe and Sane Fireworks: Shutterstock