There will be fewer explosions in the sky this Fourth of July in Morro Bay, and penalties will be harsher for people who get caught blowing stuff up illegally.
On a unanimous vote—minus Mayor Jamie Irons, who was absent—the City Council moved forward with a proposal to increase unlawful fireworks violation fines to about $1,000. Morro Bay Police Chief Amy Christey explained that the city received 85 complaints about fireworks around the Fourth of July holiday in 2014, and 78 the year before.
Increased fines could deter violations, Christey said, though she admitted it’s difficult to catch people who use illegal fireworks. Officers typically only find “little smoke piles” once they arrive on scene. The existing rules result in warnings for first-time offenders, followed by a fine of $100, then $200, then $500 for subsequent violations within one year.
The City Council agreed that noise complaints are a problem in the city, and illegal fireworks present a safety issue, particularly during an ongoing drought. The members also agreed to confine so-called “safe and sane” fireworks to private property, and said they would continue the discussion to potentially limit those types of explosives in the future as well.
“There is a sentiment for banning all safe and sane,” Councilwoman Christine Johnson said. “I’m not ready to go there just yet.”
This year will also mark the first in five years that the nonprofit Morro Bay 4th won’t put on a fireworks display over the water. The nonprofit closed due to dwindling volunteer resources, past President Daniel Podesto told New Times, but it’s been kept alive on paper in hopes that a private group will step in to take over. City officials voted on Feb. 24 to use some city resources to keep the daytime festivities intact until about 6 p.m.