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Gearing up for a safe Fourth

"No Fireworks" signs are posted on lightpoles lining Coast Highway and Laguna Canyon Road en route into Laguna Beach, which can only mean one thing: Fourth of July looms.

The Laguna Beach Fire Department will boost staffing from 12 firefighters to 20 on July 4 to ensure safety, Fire Chief Jeff LaTendresse said.

The Police Department is likely to increase patrols as well. Capt. Jason Kravetz said last July 4, the department had 62 people on duty, twice the staffing of a regular summer day. This included 10 civilian employees to direct traffic.

The city is a fireworks-free zone, except for the city-sponsored light show off Heisler Park's Monument Point at 9 p.m. on the Fourth. It is illegal to possess, sell or shoot off fireworks within the city.

Revelers have obeyed the fireworks rules on the holiday for the past two years. Police have not arrested anyone for selling or possessing fireworks since Independence Day 2010, according to department statistics.

In 2009 and 2010, police arrested four people — two each year — for possessing fireworks, the department said. Police made four other fireworks-related arrests since 2007, but those occurred at different times of the year.

The most common explosives are "safe and sane" fireworks, which include Piccolo Petes and sparklers, according to LaTendresse.

The Fire Department lumps fireworks into two other categories. One grouping includes firecrackers and bottle rockets, which often come from Mexico, while the other, more serious types include M-80s or M-1000s, said Api Weinert, the department's training and emergency medical services chief.

Firecrackers and bottle rockets carry misdemeanor charges while possession or use of M-80s is a felony, Weinert said.

If police or fire officials find someone with an M-80, Orange County bomb squad officers are dispatched to the scene, Weinert said.

Firefighters focus on areas with a lot of brush, such as hillsides, to prevent fireworks-spawned blazes.

"[People] buy safe-and-sane fireworks outside the city, bring them in and light them off in brush areas ... . We've had building fires and brush fires," Weinert said.

Last year a fire caused $5,000 in damage to a building, according to an Orange County Fire Authority report. The cause was youngsters playing with fireworks, LaTendresse said.

An extra paramedic will be on duty July 4 to attend to any injuries, according to LaTendresse, who said fire prevention goes on all year.

"We collect this stuff year-round and store it at the fire station in secure containers," he said.

The Orange County Fire Authority seized 554 pounds of illegal fireworks last year compared with 206 pounds of explosives in 2011, according to a report based on information from several cities and hospitals.

LaTendresse said he did not know how many pounds came from Laguna Beach.

Countywide injuries decreased to 19 last year — Laguna Beach had one — compared with 27 in 2011, the report said. Hand and eye injuries accounted for 75% of the total.

In one case, a firecracker burned a 3-year-old boy's face, neck and back.

LaTendresse encouraged people to enjoy the Fourth safely by going to Monument Park or heading into the hills to get a prime vantage point for nearby cities' fireworks shows.

If You Go

What: Laguna Beach fireworks show

Where: Heisler Park (Monument Point)

When: 9 p.m. July 4. Beginning at 5 p.m., the area from Rock Bench at Myrtle Street to Rockpile Beach stairs at Jasmine Street will be closed to the public.

Cost: Free

Information: (949) 497-0352; http://www.lagunabeachcity.nethttp://www.lagunabeachcity.net/default.asp

Alcohol and smoking are prohibited on beaches, and no tents, canopies or barbecues are allowed on beaches or parks.

To ease traffic heading out of the city on Laguna Canyon Road, the road's center lane from Canyon Acres and El Toro Road will be open to vehicles following the fireworks show.

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