Despite being well past the Fourth of July, illegal fireworks have continued to be a pressing issue throughout Kern County.
On Sunday, July 4, and Monday, July 5, the Bakersfield Fire Department responded to 83 reports of fires, including 15 structure fires. The city and county’s emergency communication center received 2,376 calls on Independence Day, a thousand more than the same day a month earlier.
“It defies logic that a drought ridden county in a chronically dry state with some of the worst air quality in the country allows the risk that fireworks pose,” stated Jasmin LoBasso, a Kern County resident, during a Board of Supervisors meeting on July 20. “We’re seeing some of the largest, longest-lasting fires in recorded history.”
Residents throughout the county were provided with various numbers they could call to report illegal fireworks. The Kern County Fire Department also launched a new section on their website that allows the community to report illegal fireworks in their area. The online tip form is available 24 hours a day and can be found here.
According to numerous residents, however, reporting illegal fireworks by calling the hotlines has been deemed insufficient. “Many of us have had poor and useless experiences,” LoBasso continued during the meeting. “I’ve called the hotline and been hung up on. I’ve called and reached a busy signal. I’ve called every single year for four years when my neighbors shoot hundreds of Roman candles on my property and no one from the county comes.”
Public complaints about the use of illegal fireworks continued after LoBasso’s speech. Another attendee, Christopher Jacobson, showed a full bag of what was “a fraction” of illegal fireworks picked up from his lawn, despite not lighting any himself. Verda Varner announced that fireworks have been a nightly issue since Easter and described her neighborhood as sounding like a “war-zone” throughout the months of June and July. Joyce LoBasso stated that she’s called the hotline about illegal firework shootings since 2006 and although she’s told someone will come out, nobody shows up.
The last person to speak up about the issues posed by illegal fireworks was Lisa LoBasso, who revealed that her family has faced catastrophes in the last two years due to fireworks. “No one seems to care when we call. No one seems to do anything,” she stated. “Last year, four fires were started on my parents’ property and they almost lost their home.”
Additionally, fireworks can pose a health risk for Kern County residents. According to the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, fireworks can temporarily increase air pollution. This year, the valley air officials asked residents to limit or refrain from using personal fireworks.
“Combine this with wildfire smoke in our geographical base and you directly impact those with respiratory illnesses. Every year we see respiratory related deaths at a rate that is 12 times higher in Kern County than in the state. Our entire health is at stake in this community and our county needs to do more, at minimum, to enforce the laws that are already in effect for illegal fireworks.”Jasmin LoBasso
The Kern County Fire Department says a person can be fined $1,500 for setting off illegal fireworks for the first time, 2,000 for the second time, and 2,500 for the third offense. If your illegal fireworks start a fire, it could be much more.
Kern Fire is asking people to report illegal firework issues online at youlightitwewriteit.com.