California authorities arrest 6 in illegal fireworks bust
SAN FRANCISCO — Six people have been arrested in what California authorities said Thursday was one of the largest illegal firework operations in state.
Nearly 50,000 pounds (22,679.85 kilograms) of fireworks were seized by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection over the past two weeks in the culmination of a three-year investigation.
Wildfire-prone California has some the strictest fireworks restrictions in the country and bans some of the most popular products that are legal in other states. Those restrictions have spurred a brisk illegal trade in fireworks bought legally out of state.
“With the increase in large, devastating fires across the state, we cannot stand by and allow this type of activity to occur, threatening not only property and natural resources, but the lives of the citizens we protect,” said Cal Fire chief Ken Pimlot.
Only fireworks approved by the state fire marshal that carry a “safe and sane” stamp are legal in California.
CalFire spokesman Michael Mohler said the six suspects were arrested throughout Northern California and booked into the Calaveras County Jail. The district attorney is considering what charges to file.
Mohler said the agency typically seizes about 200,000 pounds (90,719.4 kilograms) of illegal fireworks annually. He said the alleged illegal fireworks ring was one of the largest the agency has busted in recent memory.