Caution stressed on Fourth |

Caution stressed on Fourth

The Fourth of July is no time to play with fire in the Tahoe Basin.

Law enforcement agencies will be on the lookout this week for Independence Day revelers holding their own fireworks displays. All fireworks are illegal in the Tahoe Basin and their use carries a penalty of up to a year in jail or a $1,000 fine, according to South Lake Tahoe Police Commander Rich McGuffin.

“If we know about it, we are going to enforce the law and (offenders) will be cited,” McGuffin said. “Any fireworks they have are going to be confiscated and destroyed. Take a look at the Martis fire. That is a real recent reminder of what can happen.”

Matt Mathes, spokesman for the U.S. Forest Service in California, warned that people should not be given a feeling of security by moisture the basin received this week.

“People should not be misled by the recent spell of cool weather ,” Mathes said. “All we got was enough to take the edge off the fire danger for few days. We are going to be right back where we were after a few days of hot windy weather, which is inevitable.”

Division Chief Mike Chandler said the South Tahoe Fire Department will be on high alert as Fourth of July celebrations begin, with extra staff and two patrol units on duty.

“They will be out patrolling the neighborhoods to take care of any small problems,” Chandler said. “We will also be looking for illegal possession of fireworks.”

Mathes warned that a person found responsible for starting a forest fire can be held liable for the cost of putting it out.

“We are very good at finding people who start forest fires,” Mathes said. “These days large forest fires end up costing about $1 million a day to suppress. Not to mention the guilt someone would feel about a home that can be destroyed by a forest fire.”

Despite the warnings, McGuffin said he hopes visitors to the basin have a fun weekend.

“The vast majority of the people who come up here are with families and they are here for a good time and they obey the laws,” McGuffin said. “We want people to have a really enjoyable and safe Fourth of July. That is why we are out there. To make sure that happens.”

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