Police vow crackdown on illegal fireworks, as ‘safe and sane’ ones go on sale in Costa Mesa and Huntington

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With Independence Day just around the corner, dozens of groups will set up stands in Costa Mesa and Huntington Beach this weekend to sell Fourth of July fireworks, an annual tradition that gives local nonprofits and booster clubs a budgetary spark.

Each year, the two cities allow local groups to sell and residents to use fireworks that bear the seal of approval from the California fire marshal — namely those that don’t leave the ground or explode in the air. Newport Beach, Laguna Beach and Fountain Valley don’t allow private fireworks of any kind.

Though the stands are permitted to sell only fireworks considered “safe and sane,” scofflaws can still get their hands on illegal varieties, and law enforcement — as in past years — is expected to crack down.


Fireworks not approved by the state, including cherry bombs, bottle rockets, firecrackers and aerial shells, are illegal to possess, store, use or transport in California. Doing so is punishable by a $1,000 fine and jail time. Selling illegal fireworks and possessing more than 100 pounds of them is a felony.

In Costa Mesa, 34 organizations will begin peddling their pyrotechnics on Saturday. The stands are permitted to sell from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday through Tuesday and 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday, Independence Day.

Fireworks can be lit from 4 to 10 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday.

In Huntington Beach, 15 groups will set up shop beginning Sunday. The stands can operate from noon to 10 p.m. Sunday through Tuesday and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday.

Fireworks can be set off in Huntington Beach only from noon to 10 p.m. Wednesday.

Local organizations that run the stands said fireworks sales are a great way to add some bang to their budgets and get the community to rally around their programs.

“It’s our biggest fundraiser of the year for football,” said Matt Richards, president of the Costa Mesa High School football booster club. “We’d have trouble functioning without it.”

Richards said the annual sale typically nets the program $8,000 to $10,000. Since minors are prohibited from selling fireworks, parents do most of the work at the stand, he said.

Occasionally, players will swing signs to lure passersby to the booth, and they help advertise it by word of mouth.

“It’s a lot of effort, but it’s a great way to get parents and the community involved in the program,” Richards said.

In an effort to keep the holiday festivities “safe and sane,” Costa Mesa and Newport Beach police say they have employed proactive measures to quell the use of illegal pyrotechnics.

In the past two weeks, Costa Mesa detectives have seized 1,300 pounds of illegal fireworks, officials said.

In Newport Beach, 631 pounds had been seized as of Thursday, said police spokeswoman Jennifer Manzella.

Authorities in Laguna Beach had not seized any pyrotechnics as of Thursday, said police Sgt. Jim Cota.

Last year, Costa Mesa detectives launched undercover operations to buy illegal fireworks from people selling them in the city. More than 2,100 pounds were seized in the weeks before Independence Day.

In recent years police and fire officials also have passed out door hangers and used social media to try to educate people about the difference between legal and illegal fireworks.

Authorities are using similar tactics this year and plan to continue seizing illegal fireworks through Wednesday, officials said.

In 2017, Costa Mesa officers issued 80 citations on allegations of fireworks-related offenses, up from 79 in 2016 and 25 in 2015, according to Police Department data. Last year, the department stopped using non-criminal, civil citations to try to deter fireworks activity and hammered suspects with criminal citations.

Data show the department received fewer calls last year about fireworks, with 703. The number of complaints had been on the rise since 2013, peaking at 1,009 in 2016.

“The discharge of illegal fireworks is dangerous and creates myriad concerns within our community,” said Costa Mesa police Capt. Mark Manley. “We saw an increase in enforcement activity and a decrease in firework-related calls for service last year, which is a promising trend we would like to see continue this year.”

Many Costa Mesa residents have complained about widespread use of banned fireworks, with some saying their neighborhoods sound like war zones around the holiday. Manley said the department has identified neighborhoods that in previous years generated an “above average” number of calls for service about fireworks.

“We will be focusing zero-tolerance efforts, first and foremost, on those neighborhoods in a hope to curb illegal firework activity and lessen the overall impact on everyone,” he said.

Much of Newport Beach’s Fourth of July enforcement effort in recent years has focused on tamping down the rowdy atmosphere along the Balboa Peninsula, where residents and visitors flock to the beach to celebrate with sun and often with parties.

Arrests during the holiday period have been gradually dropping since 2010, when the Police Department first began cracking down in West Newport, where residents had long complained about out-of-control antics.

Police tripled fines in some areas and flooded the peninsula with patrols, some in cars and others on ATVs or horseback, to help rein in the celebrations.

In 2013, the department made 124 arrests between 6 p.m. July 3 and 6 p.m. July 5, data show. Last year, 64 people were arrested during that period.

Manzella said authorities hope to continue the trend this year.

“The day shouldn’t just be for visitors to Newport Beach,” Manzella said. “We want our residents to be able to celebrate a family holiday as well.”

A list of Costa Mesa’s 34 “safe and sane” fireworks stands and their locations is available on the city website,

Huntington Beach does not have a list of its 15 stands on its website, so they are listed below:

  • Knights of Columbus, Pope John Paul I Council: 9045 Adams Ave.
  • Huntington Beach Reads One Book: 5241 Warner Ave.
  • Orange Coast Gakuen Inc.: 21132 Beach Blvd.
  • Huntington Beach Host Lions Foundation: 10081 Adams Ave.
  • Friends of the Huntington Beach City Junior Guards: 19081 Goldenwest St.
  • Ocean View Little League: 16600 Bolsa Chica St.
  • Huntington Beach Water Polo Club: 18593 Main St.
  • Golden West Swim Club: 7101 Warner Ave.
  • Huntington Beach Girls Softball Inc.: 15471 Goldenwest St.
  • Huntington Beach Youth Lacrosse: 19050 Brookhurst St.
  • Edison High School MUN Booster Club and Edison High School Foundation: 8891 Atlanta Ave.
  • Huntington Beach High School Youth Field Hockey and Huntington Beach High School Girls Volleyball: 19640 Beach Blvd.
  • Liberty Christian High School: 8492 Warner Ave.
  • Marina High School Girls Field Hockey and Marina High School Band Booster Club: 5922 Edinger Ave.
  • Ocean View High School Band and Ocean View High School Boys Water Polo: 6967 Warner Ave.

Twitter: @HannahFryTCN