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California state AG refuses to crack down on illegal fireworks causing wildfires, damage

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California state AG refuses to crack down on illegal fireworks causing wildfires, damage
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California Attorney General Rob Bonta’s office has declined to take action in response to requests from several cities to enforce the state’s fireworks possession laws.

In June, three California municipalities — Sacramento, San Jose and Santa Clara — penned letters to the California Department of Justice, urging the agency to crack down on illegal fireworks trafficking coming from out of the state, namely Nevada, and potentially out of the country. 

Bonta’s office, though, hasn’t taken the requested actions, instead responding only to confirm it had received the cities’ requests.

“We certainly have seen an increase in the use of illegal fireworks,” Don Nottoli, chairman of the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors, told Fox News Digital in an interview. “That’s backed up by the calls for service. The fire departments have tracked some of this.”

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“The potential for fire — I think the heightened awareness about that, obviously — the drought, also massive fires in forest areas of our wildland areas of our state. The parkway certainly is not immune to fire, either,” he continued, adding that traffickers have shipped large quantities of fireworks into the state using large moving trucks.

A burned structure is seen during a wildfire in Yucaipa, California. The fire was sparked by fireworks at a gender reveal ceremony in 2020. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu, File)
A burned structure is seen during a wildfire in Yucaipa, California. The fire was sparked by fireworks at a gender reveal ceremony in 2020. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu, File)

Nottoli wrote to Bonta on behalf of the Sacramento Board of Supervisors on June 6, asking the attorney general to more aggressively prosecute the illegal fireworks trade. The letter asked Bonta to notify more than a dozen sellers in Nevada, where much of the fireworks have originated, that they may not unlawfully supply, import or facilitate unlawful fireworks trafficking into California.

Officials in San Jose and Santa Clara made similar requests to the attorney general, according to letters shared with Fox News Digital.

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“I urge you to exercise your authority to help protect all Californians against the importation of illegal fireworks from the State of Nevada,” Cindy Chavez, a Santa Clara County supervisor, wrote to Bonta on June 22. 

“I respectfully request your office immediately notify the following Nevada fireworks stores, and their principals and/or owners, that if these stores are found to be supplying or facilitating the importation of illegal fireworks … your office will prosecute those businesses to the fullest extent of the law,” Chavez added.

California Attorney General Rob Bonta speaks at a news conference in Sacramento.

California Attorney General Rob Bonta speaks at a news conference in Sacramento.
(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

Sarah Zarate, director of the San Jose Office of Administration, Policy and Intergovernmental Relations, told Bonta in a separate letter dated June 28 that the sale of illegal fireworks “has reached epidemic proportions.”

The California Department of Justice responded saying safety was important, but declined to take further action.

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Weeks after Nottoli’s letter, Special Assistant Attorney General Michael Redding responded on behalf of Bonta, saying safety was the attorney general’s “top priority,” but that it wasn’t the agency’s policy “to send letters to anyone alerting them to the contents of the California Penal Code.”

In addition, a spokesperson for San Jose’s city manager said Bonta’s office responded only to confirm receipt of the original letter after the city sent a follow-up.

“In July, the City of San Jose followed up with Attorney General Bonta’s office to see if they had a response to the initial letter,” the spokesperson told Fox News Digital. “They did not, aside from saying that they received and appreciated the letter.”

Dozens of structures were threatened by fires in Contra Costa County, California, on July 4, 2020, as many launched fireworks to celebrate the holiday.

Dozens of structures were threatened by fires in Contra Costa County, California, on July 4, 2020, as many launched fireworks to celebrate the holiday.
(Contra Costa County Fire Protection District )

In response to a request for comment, Bonta’s office declined, citing an ongoing investigation.

Certain types of fireworks — including skyrockets, bottle rockets, Roman candles, firecrackers and fireworks that “explode, go into the air, or move on the ground in an uncontrollable manner” — are banned under California state law. It is illegal to sell, transport or use such fireworks.

“Illegal fireworks are illegal for a reason,” Nathan Hochman, the Republican candidate running to unseat Bonta, told Fox News Digital in an interview. “The attorney general has been put on notice that this is a large and growing problem of Californians.”

“Attorney General Bonta, like he has done on many different issues ranging from human trafficking to fentanyl poisonings, has stayed mute or is missing in action, or gives good press conferences then takes no concrete steps to address the problem,” he continued. “If given the chance to be the attorney general, we would front-burner this issue.”

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Hochman, who previously served as an assistant U.S. attorney in California and an assistant attorney general during the Bush administration, added that it was hypocritical for Bonta to make climate change a priority while looking the other way on the illegal fireworks trade.

Fireworks have sparked wildfires, widespread damage and caused air quality issues across California, according to multiple media reports.

“Each year we have hundreds of fires caused by fireworks, many of which are wildfires,” Daniel Berlant, deputy director of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection’s community wildfire preparedness and mitigation unit, told Fox News Digital.

Berlant added that he was concerned about the proliferation of illegal fireworks in the state.

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In 2020, fireworks at a Los Angeles gender reveal party caused a massive wildfire spanning more than 20,000 acres and killing one firefighter, while a 2021 incident involving fireworks in Vallejo sparked a large brush fire. Fire officials have previously blamed fireworks on hundreds of fires and millions of dollars in property loss from wildfires in California. 

Across the U.S., fireworks sparked more than 17,000 outside fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association.


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