Rohnert Park Department of Public Safety Chief Brian Masterson met with RP City Council Members Tuesday for a public safety briefing regarding illegal fireworks on the 4th of July, of which there were many fines, calls and arrests made in connection with the use of non-safe and sane fireworks despite several warnings on the dangers they pose. Due to the large number of calls and safety concerns related to fireworks, council members decided to agendize the topic for a future meeting so they can discuss the future of fireworks in Rohnert Park.
According to Masterson, the 4th of July holiday is one of the busiest nights for the department and this year was no exception as there were around 253 calls for police service, 119 firework related calls and four arrests and fines for being in possession of illegal fireworks.
There was a total of seven medical related calls, 19 fire service calls and five calls regarding dumpster fires where fireworks weren’t properly disposed. Of those 19 calls, eight required the use of an engine response to put out the flames.
“It was the busiest day for us without a doubt,” Masterson said, who also mentioned the department saw a slight increase in the number of calls compared to last year’s holiday.
The night of the holiday the department had extra patrol officers combing Rohnert Park neighborhoods. The department had also notified residents several times via Nixle that if caught with illegal fireworks you could face a fine of up to $1,000. They also voiced that fireworks not designated as safe and sane can be a huge fire danger especially during hot weather.
Yet despite these numerous steps to deter non safe and sane fireworks they were still set off.
An impromptu firework show was set off in the Home Depot parking lot, which was reportedly mixed with legal and illegal fireworks.
Residents also reported hearing them at night, causing their animal friends to cower in fear of the loud noises.
One angry resident wrote in a tweet, “F… everyone in Rohnert Park with illegal fireworks. My puppies are scared.”
Another wrote, “When I lived in Rohnert Park, the 4th was a… war zone… absolutely hated the week before and after too. Made many calls to the PD because of fireworks.”
Council member Jake Mackenzie also reported seeing fireworks go off at the Goldridge site, which he said was a “magnificent illegal display of fireworks.”
“This was the worst that I have ever seen and the reality is the city is being subject to this bombardment and I want the city to take action,” Mackenzie exclaimed.
Previously at the June 26 RP City Council Meeting, Council member Mackenzie said he would like to see fireworks made illegal in RP. Fireworks are already illegal in both Sonoma and in Marin County.
Mackenzie said at the June 26 meeting, “For every one of the 22 years on this council I have been opposed to the use of fireworks in the City of Rohnert Park and… as the danger of fire has become more and more obvious than it used to be then it would be the sanest thing to do to not allow the sale of fireworks in this city.”
The topic of fireworks is a controversial one due to people’s fears of wildfires after last year’s firestorm that ravaged Sonoma and Napa County; however, the sale of fireworks also raises money for several local nonprofit groups and youth organizations such as Warriors football and cheer.
Residents also spoke out at the June 26 meeting, urging city officials to make fireworks illegal.
One resident Anna Maria Hogue said, “It is business as usual (for selling fireworks) and I find that extremely irresponsible. I’ve been receiving red alerts from the Nixle for the last weekend warning us that it’s going to be windy and hot and dry and now we are anxious watching the misery going on up in Lake County…”
While some believe fireworks should be made illegal in Rohnert Park, some folks believe it would still be a problem even if the law did change.
“The problem lies in the illegal fireworks, not the safe and sane. We could make them illegal in Rohnert Park and that is not going to stop the problem of illegal fireworks. All the other cities that do not have safe and sane fireworks still have as many problems as any other city, we try to control it, but we can’t stop it,” Vice Mayor Joseph Callinan voiced at the June 26 meeting.
Nonetheless council members, including Council member Gina Belforte, all agreed that some sort of action has to be taken regarding fireworks, the safety of citizens and the strain it puts on public safety.
“I spent time at dispatch for three and a half hours and the calls were so consistent that people were being put on hold for firework related calls,” Belforte noted.
The topic of fireworks will continue at a future city council meeting to be announced.