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Home fireworks are big fundraisers for some Tri-Counties non-profits, but concern for firefighters

Fireworks stands provide an important revenue source for non-profit groups in some Central and South Coast communities like Fillmore, but they add to the concerns of firefighters over the accidental start of brush fires.

Firefighters urge people to leave fireworks to the professionals, saying even so-called "safe and sane" fireworks can cause injuries.

Cars and trucks are whizzing by on Highway 126 through Fillmore. But, some are stopping at pop-up businesses along the highway, ones that are selling so-called safe and sane fireworks.

It’s something which is a conundrum for some communities on the Central and South Coasts. With brush fire danger high this time of year, firefighters are worried about fireworks accidentally starting fires. But, for communities like Fillmore, the fireworks booths are literally the biggest fundraiser of the year for non-profit groups.

"It is a big fundraiser for our local communities," said Jose Luis Lomeli Junior, who is Fillmore High School’s athletic director. He's standing next to a booth run by Fillmore High School Athletic boosters, which raises money for supplies the schools can't afford.

He admits he’s not sure how well they, and the other non-profits will do this year, because supply chain issues are impacting fireworks.

Fillmore is the only place in Ventura County where you can legally buy, and use safe and sane fireworks. In Santa Barbara County: Santa Maria, Lompoc, and Guadalupe allow the sale and use of the fireworks. And, in Southern San Luis Obispo County, they are legal in Oceano, Grover Beach, and Arroyo Grande. Here’s the big but. It is illegal to use the fireworks outside of those communities. You can be fined and ticketed.

Some communities even have social host ordinances. If you have a party, and one of your guests illegally uses fireworks, you can be penalized.

Firefighters say the answer is simple: go to one of the more than a dozen professional fireworks shows in the region.

"Professionals definitely put on a good show you can't duplicate in your own backyard," said Captain Brian McGrath, with the Ventura County Fire Department. He says the holiday weekend isn’t a holiday time for most firefighters, because fireworks mean they have to have extra people on duty.

McGrath says even without the fireworks, we are facing a dangerous situation on the Central and South Coasts, with the drought drying out potential fuels earlier in the year than normal.

He says aside from the fireworks, people are being asked to be careful about things which could accidentally start fires, like a portable barbeque or a vehicle in brush.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral.