California Authorities Bust 49,000 Pounds of Illegal Fireworks

The sting operation led to the arrest of seven accused fireworks dealers and unearthed large quantities of money, guns, and electronics.

Posted: Jun 7, 2018 3:37 PM
Updated: Jun 8, 2018 9:06 AM

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Seven suspects and large quantities of illegal fireworks are in the custody of California authorities after a sting operation intended to break up a large illegal firework ring, according to a statement from CAL FIRE. The statement called this "one of the largest" such seizures in state history.

“In California, we have a zero tolerance for the use and sale of illegal fireworks,” said Chief Ken Pimlott, director of CAL FIRE. “With the increase in large, devastating fires across the state, we cannot stand by and allow this type of activity to occur, threatening not only property and natural resources, but the lives of the citizens we protect.”

Medical facts about fireworks from the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC) 2015 Fireworks Annual Report:

  • U.S. hospital emergency rooms treated an estimated 11,900 people for fireworks-related injuries.
  • 51% of those injuries were to the extremities, 41% to the head.
  • Two-thirds of those injuries were burns.
  • Children younger than 15 years-old accounted for one quarter of estimated injuries.
  • Sparklers were the leading cause of fireworks injuries.
  • More than half of fireworks injuries incurred by children under five were caused by sparklers.

The sting was the culmination several months' investigation, and cooperation between a number of different California agencies.

Suspects arrested in the operation are accused of the illegal import, transport, storage and distribution of fireworks deemed illegal under state law—an operation that has been ongoing for over 30 years, according to CAL FIRE.

In addition to those suspects, authorities seized 49,000 pounds of fireworks, $115,000 in cash, guns, computers, and phones—stored at locations in Copperopolis, Modesto, Salida, Hayward, Walnut Creek and Oakland. Some of the fireworks were loaded up and ready for transit.

According to CAL FIRE, a typical Independence Day sees fireworks accounting for two out of every five reported fires in the U.S.—more than any other individual cause. An average year in California sees 18,500 fires started by fireworks, also causing an average of three deaths, 40 injuries, and $43 million in property damage.

CAL FIRE was assisted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the California Highway Patrol (CHP), Calaveras County Sheriff’s Office and Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office (DA) as they served ten search warrants in Calaveras, Stanislaus, Alameda, and Contra Costa Counties.

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