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Costa Mesa police take fewer than 500 fireworks-related calls over 4th of July holiday season

Illegal fireworks
Costa Mesa police seized this cache of illegal fireworks in 2017. This year, the department swept up more than two tons of illicit pyrotechnics.
(Courtesy of Costa Mesa Police Department)

Fireworks-related calls to Costa Mesa’s Police and Fire & Rescue departments around the Fourth of July dropped again this year, continuing a recent precipitous overall decline.

Police took 491 calls regarding fireworks from June 30 through July 5, according to Chief Rob Sharpnack. That’s a 13% drop from last year’s 565 calls and an even more significant slide from the 2016 peak, when police tallied 1,009.

Sharpnack declared the holiday a success, which he credited to a proactive, multi-pronged strategy.

“While the holiday was a very busy period for all city staff, the city’s multifaceted approach mitigated risks and helped deter a major incident and injuries due to illegal fireworks,” he said Tuesday.

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Throughout June, undercover investigators seized more than 4,500 pounds of illegal fireworks in the city valued at about $25,000 and made 14 arrests. Authorities seized 150 pounds on the holiday proper, Sharpnack said.

Last year, they reportedly picked up 1,300 pounds in the lead-up to Independence Day.

Additionally, the city’s public education campaign included fliers distributed with water bills and informational door hangers.

State-approved “safe and sane” fireworks — generally, those that don’t leave the ground or explode in the air — are legal to sell and light off in Costa Mesa with some restrictions. However, bigger, louder, more potentially destructive pyrotechnics, such as cherry bombs and the window-rattlers shot through mini-mortars, have long frustrated Costa Mesa residents, especially those living on the Westside.

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Fire Division Chief Jason Pyle said his department responded to 178 calls for service during the holiday period, down from 186 last year and 214 in 2015. Only three of this year’s calls were for flare-ups attributable to fireworks misadventures — two trash bin blazes and a small grass fire in a median.

Pyle tempered the news with a prediction that next year should see more activity, as the Fourth falls on a Saturday.

The city had a dedicated phone line for fireworks complaints to keep 911 lines unclogged, but the hotline only received nine calls on July 4, Pyle said. He said he’d like to improve that next year.


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