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Tuesday, Jul 02 2013 09:23 AM

'First Look': Fireworks safety of paramount importance

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    Bakersfield Fire Department Battalion Chief Anthony Galagaza talks about fireworks safety on "First Look with Scott Cox."

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By THE BAKERSFIELD CALIFORNIAN

Firefighters will be busy the next few days as they "tamp down the crazy," as "First Look with Scott Cox" host Scot Cox called dealing with illegal fireworks.

Bakersfield Fire Department Battalion Chief Anthony Galagaza joined the simulcast Tuesday to emphasize the importance of fireworks safety. He also noted there are several opportunities to watch safe professional fireworks shows at a lower cost than buying fireworks. Some are even free.

Related Info

Fireworks purchase and use rules

Following is a list of when fireworks can be bought and used in Kern County:

City of Bakersfield

* Sales -- July 1, noon to 11 p.m.; July 2 and 3, 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.; July 4, 6 a.m. to 12:01 a.m.

* Usage -- July 1, noon to 12:01 a.m.; July 2 and 3, 9 a.m. to 12:01 a.m.; July 4, 9 a.m. to 12:30 a.m.

City of Delano

* Sales -- Noon to 10 p.m. from June 28 to July 4.

* Usage -- July 2 and 3, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.; July 4, 10 a.m. to midnight.

City of Wasco

* Sales -- Noon to 8 p.m. from June 28 to July 5.

* Usage -- July 1, noon to 12:01 a.m.; July 2 and 3, 9 a.m. to 12:01 a.m.; July 4, 9 a.m. to 12:30 a.m.

County of Kern (including Arvin, Buttonwillow, Lamont, Lost Hills, Maricopa, McFarland, Mojave, Rosamond, Ridgecrest, Shafter and Taft)

* Sales -- July 1, noon to 11 p.m.; July 2 and 3, 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.; July 4, 6 a.m. to 12:01 a.m.

* Usage -- July 1, noon to 12:01 a.m.; July 2 and 3, 9 a.m. to 12:01 a.m.; July 4, 9 a.m. to 12:30 a.m.

Source: Kern County Fire Department

"Keep the fireworks legal within your family," Galagaza said.

Cox said the public has lost the true meaning of Independence Day with too much drinking and blowing up stuff.

"There are pockets around town where it goes way beyond 'woo,'" Cox said.

Galagaza reminded the public that all fireworks must have the State of California Fire Marshal's seal and the slogan "Safe and Sane." Any other firework, including a "Safe and Sane" one that has been modified, is illegal.

The Bakersfield and Kern County fire departments will operate a hotline for people to report illegal fireworks or explosives use or storage. Cox predicted the hotline will be swamped.

It's 868-6070 and will operate from 7 p.m. to midnight July 3 and 4. It is a hotline for reporting illegal fireworks; emergency calls that need immediate firefighter response are to go to 911.

"People are clearly fired up to get started early," Cox said, noting he hears what he suspects are illegal fireworks in his neighborhood.

Last year more than 36 citations were issued, five arrests were made and 350 pounds of fireworks were confiscated, Galagaza said. Fines start at $1,500.

Galagaza noted crews have to catch people in the act or with the fireworks in their hands, but you might be surprised how easy that is to do. And the firefighters respond to fires and medical aid calls for people who are burned. This time of the year is one when the department is on "critical staffing," with very limited time off.

The calls increase over the years.

"It looks like the bombing of Baghdad," Galagaza said.

The Bakersfield Fire Department offered these safety tips for fireworks use:

* Always have an adult present.

* Always ignite outdoors away from people, structures, vehicles, dry grass or other combustibles.

* Never alter or disassemble fireworks.

* Never reignite malfunctioning fireworks or light ones that have loose fuses or leaking powder.

* Never allow small children to ignite or handle fireworks, and keep animals away from fireworks.

* Never throw fireworks at another person or animal.

* Never carry fireworks in your pocket.

* Always keep a water source near by.

Cox and Galagaza also talked about the tragic loss of 19 Hotshot firefighters in Arizona.

"Throughout the firefighting family we just lost 19 brothers," said Galagaza, who was on such a crew for two years.

When fire shelters are deployed in the most extreme wind and fire conditions, "It's something that you never want to have to do."

Cox said most people couldn't possibly imagine what it's like to be on a Hotshot crew and the "guts it takes to do that job."

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