Illegal fireworks seizures underway in the Bay Area

The pre-holiday-season has already become a nightly illegal fireworks show all over California, sometimes with devastating consequences

In Contra Costa County, seizures and arrests have gathered up a lot of fireworks that won't be setting wildfires. The dryness is so dangerous, no firework can truly be deemed safe or sane.

It took Contra Costa fire and arson investigators a lot of work to take these four caches, 300 pounds of illegal fireworks, off the thriving underground market.

"Undercover operations and we have seized all the fireworks here behind us; our fire investigation unit has investigation in four different cities: Concord, Antioch, Pittsburg and San Pablo," said Chief Chris Bachman, Contra Costa Fire Marshal. 

With Independence Day almost upon us, they are picking up the pace. "We do have our investigators, who are sworn police officers out in the community, looking for the sale of illegal fireworks and making arrests," said the chief.

The stakes have never been higher. "We're seeing that with our fires that are occurring in June that typically the moistures we're seeing and how our fires are behaving this month, is what we typically see in August and September. The famous M-1000 is, in reality, a quarter stick of dynamite. It can easily take your hand off. Also, it's already got a track record of burning places down. "We had that occur with a firework being set off in Antioch at an apartment complex, and ended up burning down the entire complex and displaced 40 residents and that was from setting just one illegal firework in that complex," said Bachman.

In many counties, so-called safe and sane fireworks are just as illegal as these. 

"There's a new ordinance that was just adopted by the board of supervisors and so, you're caught this year, Fourth of July, in possession, you also could be cited and arrested," said Bachman.

Preparations are already underway in Rio Vista, where people come from far and wide to get safe and sane fireworks, often illegal in their own towns and counties nonetheless.

Many illegal fireworks are secretly trucked into California from Nevada where they are legal. Others are smuggled into the country from fireworks making nations such as China. The sellers know that the California is a quick, high-return investment with ready customers everywhere.