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Deputies crack down on fireworks scofflaws

Posted: July 3, 2014 6:30 p.m.
Updated: July 3, 2014 6:30 p.m.
 



By Hector Gonzalez
Signal Staff Writer

For the first time, deputies in the Santa Clarita Valley have gone door to door in the days before the Fourth of July holiday to remind residents that fireworks are illegal in most of Los Angeles County, canvassing entire SCV neighborhoods where officials have encountered scofflaws in years past.

Meanwhile, the California Highway Patrol launched its “maximum enforcement period” at 6 p.m. Thursday, putting every available officer on roads and freeways to patrol for drunken drivers, speeding motorists and seat belt law violators. Officers will be patrolling in force through 11:59 p.m. Sunday, officials said in a news release.

“This is the first year” sheriff’s deputies have taken their message about illegal fireworks directly to SCV residents, said Deputy Joshua Dubin of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Fireworks Suppression Team, which will deploy eight to 10 deputies starting at 6 p.m. Friday and continuing through 2 a.m. Saturday.

Their “sole mission” will be to respond “to those problem locations and confiscating the illegal fireworks and citing or arresting violators,” a Sheriff’s Department news release said.

Fireworks Suppression Team members earlier this week visited “entire neighborhoods” where deputies have received complaints in the past about people setting off fireworks, Dubin said. Deputies spoke directly with residents and also handed out flyers reminding people of the fines for violating the law — $500 for a first offense, $1,000 for a second. Most people were receptive to the warnings, he added.

“We’ve been pretty well received,” said Dubin. “With the drought and everything, we hope people take this very seriously. Residents seemed to understand about the dangers.”

Last year, however, the suppression team responded to “hundreds of calls” from residents reporting illegal fireworks, Dubin said.

“It was very, very busy,” he said Thursday.

Officials hope their preemptive efforts — which also included publishing information about illegal fireworks and fines in The Signal and on social media sites, and placing electronic signs with similar warnings near areas where fireworks have been a problem in the past — pay off this year.

“We won’t know for sure until tomorrow,” Dubin said Thursday.

Although sparklers and other so-called “safe and sane” fireworks are legal in some areas of Los Angeles County and in Ventura County, fireworks of any kind are illegal in the Santa Clarita Valley, Dubin said. In the city of Santa Clarita, “it is unlawful for any person to handle, give away, sell, offer for sale, solicit the sale of, manufacture, possess, purchase, use, ignite, explode, fire, or otherwise discharge any fireworks,” the suppression team wrote in a letter published this week.

“The dry winter and high temperatures create an extreme fire danger,” the letter noted, while asking residents to instead attend professional fireworks shows at Richard Rioux Park in Stevenson Ranch or the Westfield Valencia Town Center.

Fireworks also pose a problem for dogs, the Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care and Control warned on its website.
“Dogs...can become startled and disoriented by the sound of fireworks, activating their flight instinct. Frightened pets often find their way out of yards and into the streets where they become disoriented,” the website said. “Every year, DACC sees a large increase in the number of pets that come into shelters and sadly, a large increase in animals that are hit by cars and never make it back home.”

Animal care officials said pet owners should make sure their pets are micro-chipped and that licenses are current; keep pets indoors and in a cool place; turn on a radio or television to help distract pets; never take their pets to a fireworks show; and never keep a dog tied up or chained in a back yard as they may panic and injure themselves.

Apart from fireworks, drunken driving is a major concern for officials on the Fourth of July, which ranks about third behind Thanksgiving and Labor Day in the number of holiday fatalities and injuries, said Chris Cochran of the state Office of Traffic Safety. In 2012, the most recent year for which statistics were available, 78 people died in DUI crashes in the United States, the office said in a news release.

In response, law enforcement officials up and down the state will be out in full force looking for impaired drivers, officials said.

“If you plan on drinking over the Fourth of July holiday, take a minute before you head out to plan how you’ll be getting home safely at the end of the day,” Office of Traffic Safety Director Rhonda L. Craft said in the release. “You can show your consideration of everyone on this historic anniversary, as well as avoid the expense and headache that comes with a DUI.”

Motorists in the Santa Clarita Valley also should be aware of the following road closures on Friday.

Main Street will be shut down from Newhall Avenue to Lyons Avenue from 6 to 11 a.m. for the city’s Fourth of July Parade and 5- and 10K run, along with Lyons from Railroad Avenue to Orchard Village Road; Orchard Village Road from Lyons Avenue to 16th Street; and 16th Street.

In addition, for the City of Santa Clarita Fireworks Show McBean Parkway will be reduced to one lane on the northbound approach to Valencia Boulevard, and southbound approach to Magic Mountain Parkway at 5 p.m.; at 6:45 p.m. McBean Parkway will be closed in both directions between Valencia Boulevard and Magic Mountain Parkway; at 7:15 p.m.: eastbound Valencia Boulevard and eastbound Magic Mountain Parkway will be reduced to one lane between Citrus Street and McBean Parkway. Also, at 8:00 p.m.: westbound Valencia Boulevard and westbound Magic Mountain Parkway will be reduced to one lane between McBean Parkway and Citrus Street.

For details on Friday’s road closures visit santa-clarita.com/fourth-of-july.


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