Guest column: Lake Tahoe fire officials ready to crackdown on illegal fireworks
Summer and the threat of wildfires in the Lake Tahoe Basin are here.
During the Independence Day holiday, law enforcement and local fire agencies will once again try to dissuade the use of illegal fireworks.
In June of 2016 the National Fire Protection Association released a report regarding fireworks caused fires and injuries. A few notes from the report:
In 2013, fireworks caused an estimated 15,600 reported fires in the U.S., including 1,400 structure fires, 200 vehicle fires, and 14,000 brush, grass or forest fires…
Two thirds of the fires started by fireworks in 2009-2013 were brush, grass or forest fires.
These fires resulted in an estimated $21 million in direct property damage.
More than one-quarter (28 percent) of fires started by fireworks in 2009-2013 were reported on Independence Day.
In 2014, U.S. hospital emergency rooms saw an estimated 10,500 people for fireworks-related injuries. Note that 2015 saw the injuries increase to 11,900.
Lake Tahoe fire agencies will not hesitate to utilize the criminal justice system and the state laws regarding illegal fireworks. On the California side of the South Shore, individuals who decide to use illegal fireworks and/or start a forest fire as a result can plan on an appointment with the El Dorado County Superior Court and the honorable Judge Kingsbury.
The judge is a local who cares about the lake and our environment. The judge will have little sympathy for those who put our safety at risk to see a little flash and hear a “boom.” Light that bottle rocket and the last “boom” heard will be Judge Kingsbury’s gavel.
Several court houses are conveniently located on the South Shore. The El Dorado court is at 1354 Johnson Blvd, just off of Al Tahoe here in South Lake Tahoe. On the Nevada side the Douglas County Tahoe Justice Court is located at 175 U.S. 50 in Stateline.
With court houses close by, local fire chiefs can attend proceedings involving illegal fireworks. Along with monetary fines and jail time, fire chiefs may ask the judge for a little extra punishment. All firefighters agree punishment should include community service. Recall the acclaimed Paul Newman film “Cool Hand Luke.”
Violator’s hours of community service could include picking up pine needles and trash along the highway or chipping debris piles. We have real hands-on labor and I’m fine with reminding the judge just how much work needs to be done. What a great way to spend the summer in Tahoe.
Please visit the Tahoe Fire and Fuels Team, CALFIRE, and the U.S. Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit websites for more information.
Have a safe and happy Fourth!
Tim Alameda is fire chief of the Lake Valley Fire Protection District.