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Fire, Police Officials Urging Holiday Safety
This is a sampling of fireworks confiscated following a search along Escalon-Bellota Road on June 26. Police seized 97 pounds of fireworks from the location. Escalon Police Department Photo

July 4 falls on a Saturday this year, and local police and fire officials are urging residents to play it safe, on many fronts.

Police remind residents not to drink and drive and fire officials are also highlighting the need for safety around the river, while both agencies indicate residents should also be cautious when it comes to fireworks usage.

The Safe and Sane fireworks are for sale in the city, at four different locations, with each booth benefitting a local service club, community organization, church or youth group.

“I think we say year after year that it potentially could be the worst we’ve seen and we are there again this year,” Escalon Fire Chief Rick Mello said. “Everybody needs to realize and understand that Safe and Sane fireworks are legal within the city limits only, not in the rural parts of San Joaquin County.”

Sales of the legal fireworks began on Sunday, June 28 and the booths can sell them through July 4. Mello said use of the fireworks can continue through midnight on July 4 as well, but, again, within the city limits only.

“We are just hopeful that people will stay safe and sane and only discharge the fireworks during the allowed times,” Mello added.

Escalon Police, meanwhile, responded to a handful of fireworks complaints during the past several days, reported at various locations around the city.

The department also made an arrest in connection with a probation search, finding nearly 100 pounds of illegal fireworks at a location along Escalon-Bellota Road on Friday, June 26. Police said they received information about a person possessing “a cache of illegal fireworks” in the 17000 block of Escalon-Bellota. The investigation and a search resulted in the seizure of 97 pounds of illegal fireworks. Local resident Michael Lial, 36, was arrested in connection with the case, on a charge of felony possession of a destructive device.

According to a press release issued by the police department, 113 of the fireworks were “M” type, which are not commercially manufactured and fall under the description of a destructive device. It was also learned that some of the fireworks had been purchased by local residents from Lial via the “Offer Up” app.

Mello said even those using the Safe and Sane fireworks need to exercise caution and he said they should never be altered in any way, as that could have potentially explosive and damaging results.

“Not just the fire hazard but the safety hazard of it exploding,” said Mello, “somebody losing a hand or whatever the case is.”

San Joaquin County has also seen an increase in coronavirus cases and how that might translate into holiday traffic is unknown. Governor Gavin Newsom included the county in a directive for closing bars – which had only recently gotten the go-ahead to re-open – and there are some restrictions still on public gatherings. Mello said there aren’t any planned fireworks displays in the immediate area that he is aware of and the traditional Fourth of July celebration hosted at the Community Center, organized by the Escalon Covenant Church, is not on the calendar for this year.

Still, fire and police officials are prepared for what could be a busy summer holiday weekend.

“We are now seeing an increased call volume what with summer and fire season, and now we can add a fireworks element to that,” Mello said. “We are hoping it is not a busy Fourth of July … people here are smart people and we hope that everybody uses common sense and enjoys (the holiday) safely.”