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Play It Safe For Holiday
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Fireworks are on sale and local residents are gearing up for their Fourth of July celebrations this weekend ... but officials are urging extreme caution in light of the hundreds of California wildfires and the dry conditions that make the region ripe for flames.

"We haven't had any major incidents in the past few years and we're hoping it will stay that way," said Escalon Fire Chief Rick Mello.

Local organizations are staffing four separate 'Safe and Sane' fundraising fireworks booths around the city and the sales will continue through July 4. Mello said precautions still need to be taken when using the safe and safe fireworks, and people need to use them wisely.

"We're just asking people to be smart," Mello said. "Don't alter your safe and sane fireworks, remember that anything that leaves the ground is illegal, so don't throw anything up in the air. People have even put their safe and sane fireworks on a ladder and that is an illegal use of them."

Already there have been a few reports of fireworks being set off around the community and a couple incidents of bottle rockets have been reported.

"A bottle rocket on a hot summer day on someone's shake roof can be catastrophic," explained Mello, noting it can ignite a house fire in a heartbeat. "We don't want to spend our Fourth of July that way."

Escalon Police Chief Doug Dunford echoed Mello's sentiments.

"We'll be looking around for illegal fireworks," he said. "We had some arrests last year and there always seems to be a couple of areas in town where this occurs."

Dunford said most fireworks-related fires are caused by illegal fireworks, those that leave the ground and land on a roof, in a tree or in someone's yard.

"We're having an extra one or two people on for the Fourth of July," Dunford added, noting that traffic typically increases for the holiday period and officers will be on traffic detail as well as seeking out the illegal fireworks.

As far as sales at the local fireworks booths, Dunford said it appeared as though they were going well and business at the Recreation Department booth near Hula's at the east end of town seemed to be slightly up from last year. Other booths are being run by Escalon Sober Grad, Escalon Covenant Church and Escalon Sports Boosters and the booths are set up at Big Boy Market on Jackson Avenue, Main Street Market on McHenry Avenue and on Highway 120 just west of town across the railroad tracks.

Weather forecasters are calling for highs on Friday, July 4 and over the holiday weekend to be in the mid to upper 90s, adding to the fire danger.

"Last year we had the use of a helicopter in the area," Mello added of seeking out illegal fireworks. "If they're available, we may have them again. But our department and the police department will be out, looking for bottle rockets, M80s, that stuff.

"We'll take the stance of zero tolerance."

Minimum fine for illegal fireworks, said Mello, is $750.

"The safe and safe fireworks are great as long as they're used by sane people safely," he added.

Visitors are also expected to flock to local parks for the holiday, for swimming and barbecues, so Mello anticipates a busy time for his department.

"We have Jacob Myers Park and McHenry Recreation Area in our response area," he pointed out. "We'll have our regular staffing of three people and all our reserves and volunteers will be available."