From Coachella to Colton and several cities in between, Fourth of July can be a do-it-yourself celebration for those who prefer setting off their own pyrotechnic displays.
In seven cities in San Bernardino County and four in Riverside County, the sale and discharge of "safe and sane" fireworks is legal.
Although many of those cities sponsor Independence Day celebrations that culminate with a professional show, the option of lighting sparklers and Piccolo Petes on the driveway, water bucket and hose at the ready, is still available there.
The temporary booths started appearing in parking lots and vacant fields in mid-June, but they had to remain boarded up until noon today, when California law says is the earliest that "safe and sane" fireworks sales may begin.
For churches, youth groups, schools and civic organizations, fireworks stands provide a crucial cash infusion that pays for sports equipment, field trips, scholarships and charitable programs.
For fire and police departments, hospitals and animal shelters, fireworks represent an annual summer headache -- dousing blazes, arresting scofflaws who set off dangerous, illegal varieties, patching up the injured and catching frightened escaped pets.
This week, Gov. Schwarzenegger put himself in the latter camp.
As the governor toured several wildfires raging in Northern California, he urged the public to bypass the fireworks stands this year because of elevated fire danger. On Friday, he declared disaster areas in two more counties, where lightning strikes have ignited about 230 blazes.
"I do not plan to order a statewide ban of fireworks," the governor said Friday. "But I do encourage fire-affected counties to take a good look at their resources and take the appropriate steps at the local level, including a fireworks ban if necessary, to protect their communities."
Over the next week, groups such as the American Legion, the Kiwanis Club and the chamber of commerce will find out whether the governor's warning puts a dent in their sales.
One Stand in Grand Terrace
In Grand Terrace, the local municipal code allows only one fireworks stand: at Barton Road and Canal Street. Grand Terrace Little League and Grand Terrace Community Soccer Club sell there.
Proceeds help pay for equipment, field maintenance, tournament fees and uniforms for the 750 boys and girls, ages 4 to 18, who play on its soccer teams, Vice President Joe Cardoza said.
The league, established in 1980, has sold fireworks as a fundraising tool for about seven years. The proceeds help them keep dues -- $75 per season -- affordable, Cardoza said.
Grand Terrace Soccer Club has earned as much as $2,500 from the stand. Members split staffing duties and profits with Grand Terrace Little League, Cardoza said.
"Anything that leaves the ground is illegal," said Fire Marshal Norma Barajas, of the Rialto Fire Department. "We have stuff (set off) from Mexico, Arizona, Nevada."
The department keeps a log each year of fireworks-related incidents, she said.
The city allows 16 fireworks stands, and charges $140 for each permit, Barajas said.
Protecting Fire Hazard Area
In San Bernardino, "safe and sane" fireworks are a blessing for 34 nonprofit groups, including Elks Lodge 836, the local chapter of Jobs Daughters, Knights of Columbus No. 905 and San Bernardino High School's athletic teams.
But they're a bane for city firefighters and police officers, who have to enforce a key local rule: that fireworks are prohibited anywhere north of Highway 210, the area near the foothills.
"The north end is always our top priority, because it's our high fire-hazard area," said Manny Sedano, public education officer for the San Bernardino Fire Department.
"If you live south of the 210 freeway, it's OK to do 'safe and sane' fireworks as long as you don't do them in public streets, public parks or a parking lot," he said. "We're trying to keep our businesses and our residential areas safe from fires. That's why we have these rules."
Sometimes, the restrictions are as much about common courtesy and respect for private property as they are about potential danger.
"People go light fireworks in (shopping center) parking lots and they don't clean up," Sedano said.
Violators could get slapped with a $1,000 fine, which the San Bernardino City Council added to the fireworks ordinance last December, Sedano said. The fine applies to the geographical restrictions on the use of "safe & sane" fireworks, along with the possession or discharge of the illegal varieties.
"We sent out 25,000 fliers to all of the elementary-age kids, and we had 40,000 inserts sent out to the residents in their water bills," Sedano said.
The city also put up 1,000 posters around the city, explaining the regulations, with the slogan "A grand reason to say no."
On the Fourth of July, San Bernardino police and firefighters will patrol the city looking for violators -- and using their fire engines and cruisers as a visible reminder and deterrent, Sedano said.
Several cities in San Bernardnio and Riverside counties permit the sale and use of "safe & sane" fireworks. varieties legal in California bear the seal of the state fire marshal. booths can begin selling fireworks no earlier than noon today.
San Bernardino County:
Colton -- 15 booths
Fontana -- 36 booths
Grand Terrace -- 1 booth
Rialto -- 16 booths
San Bernardino -- 34 booths. Sales begin at noon Tuesday
Cathedral City -- 5 booths
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