CATHEDRAL CITY — One day after a fifth person has been elected to the City Council, the panel is expected to question — even debate — the future of safe and sane fireworks in this community.
In June, after approving permits to three organizations to sell the fireworks, Councilors said they would revisit the issue after a full complement of the City Council was seated – and once they had data from the Fourth of July citations, fires, and arrests.
Some residents want the sale of safe and sane fireworks stopped. They argue the name is a misnomer and are still dangerous to pets and veterans – even the city’s image. Some say the fireworks are a way to help youth organizations raise money.
Fire Chief Paul Wilson, in a staff report to the City Council, said the ordinance allowing for the sale of safe and sane fireworks was implanted to accomplish two objectives:
- First; to provide funding to cover the City expenses of public education and police and code compliance enforcement related to illegal fireworks; and
- Second; to allow qualified non-profits an opportunity to recover youth-oriented funding that was eliminated during previous City budget reductions. The Safe and Sane fireworks program is open to six non-profit groups.
On July 4, the Police and Fire Dispatch Center receive 183 calls for service; 84 of them were related to fireworks.
An aggressive public education campaign, courtesy of the Fire Department, to prevent illegal fireworks is being credited in part for reducing the number of fireworks calls and citations. This year, 84 citations were issued compared with 111 in 2018. Eight citations were issued this year compared with 20 citations last year.
There were no fireworks-related injuries reported.
The education campaign consisted of billboard advertising, bus stop posters, and signs along arterial roads.
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. Fireworks were 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.
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.
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.
The 2019 participating organizations were:
- Calvary Christian Church, 67800 Vista Chino
- Desert Elite Football, 68463 Ramon Road
- CCHS Lions Boosters, 31605 Date Palm
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.
A recap of the Safe and Sane Fireworks Program will be presented at the City Council study session on Wednesday, Aug. 28. Study session begins at 4 p.m.
- Safe and Sane Fireworks: Shutterstock
- Fireworks: Image by lisa runnels from Pixabay