Fireworks Fanatics Among Us
In his column today, "Don't Forget To Douse", Daily Pilot writer and self-professed knucklehead Steve Smith goes right to the heart of the fireworks issue in Costa Mesa.
IT TAKES COJONES
I have to give Smith credit for acknowledging his knuckleheadness, particularly since he has been trying to tell us how to live our lives and raise our children for many years. It took guts to tell the Daily Pilot readers of his boneheaded move that resulted in melting his trash can and threatening his neighborhood. It takes real chutzpah to think that, by admitting his stupidity, he can justify continuing the sales and discharge of fireworks in Costa Mesa.
HOLIER THAN THOU
Early in his column Smith pontificates that, because there were so few calls for service to the Fire Department, it demonstrates that fireworks are safe. He says, "If you have opposed the sale of fireworks in Costa Mesa, you should be big enough today to say, 'I was wrong.'" He tells us that we shouldn't punish the "99.99% of law-abiding citizens" for the transgressions of a few who misuse fireworks, including illegal fireworks.
FIREWORKS SHOULD BE OUTLAWED!
Well, I am one who feels we should stop selling fireworks in Costa Mesa and pass an ordinance that specifically forbids the discharge of ANY fireworks in our city - an ordinance that has teeth in it. Several years ago a garage that abuts our property was burned to the ground over one Independence Day holiday by a thoughtless youth with so-called "safe and sane" fireworks. Only the alert response by another neighbor, who hosed down our garage until the fire department arrived, kept that fire from destroying our home.
SAME OLD STORIES
I know we'll hear from those, including many of my friends and neighbors, who feel that shooting off fireworks is some kind of God-given right. We'll hear from those who think that's it's just plain anti-American to forbid fireworks sale and discharge in our city. We'll hear from the parents who, in four days of fireworks sales, earn more than their entire year's budget for their specific youth sports programs. Others will complain that we don't need a law to forbid fireworks - that we have too many laws abridging our freedoms already. I've heard it all before and really do understand those viewpoints.
It was not too long ago that sparklers, a staple of Independence Day celebrations in my youth, were removed from the list of "safe and sane" items that could be used in our city. The 2000 degree heat generated by a sparkler, and the spitting of hot metal fragments that form the "sparkle", were deemed to be too dangerous to children, so were banned.
SMALL TOWN SOLUTION
My wife and I spent the holiday in a small town on the Central Coast where fireworks are specifically forbidden because of the extreme danger of forest fires. The smallest spark could destroy the town. In exchange for that prohibition this little burg puts on an all-day party at a local seaside park - with music, dancing, games, food and drink - and which culminates in a wonderful professional fireworks show fired out safely over the ocean. This day-long party, sponsored by the local Lions Club, draws residents and tourists alike by the thousands and raises money for many youth programs - and keeps the community safe. That seems like a solution worth pursuing in Costa Mesa.
OUR OWN KNUCKLEHEAD
Smith doesn't have the Costa Mesa knucklehead market cornered. Upon returning home last weekend we heard that our Costa Mesa neighborhood, which held it's own block party again this year, had a damper put on the otherwise outstanding, fun-filled festivities by the knuckleheaded performance of one member of the neighborhood. Anecdotal reports tell us that this person endangered lives and property by misusing what appeared to be illegal fireworks - so much so that many neighbors retreated to their homes for safety. I'd run, too, if I saw Roman Candles being used like shoulder-fired missles! The police were called, but arrived an hour later - much too late to observe the activities. We're led to believe that our neighborhood was lucky to not have had serious injury to persons or property. No child was burned - no house destroyed.
"WHEN", NOT "IF"
In my view, it's just a matter of time until we in Costa Mesa do have a person injured or killed and/or homes destroyed by the misuse of fireworks. I don't think you can effectively police the enforcement of illegal fireworks while still allowing the sale and use of so-called safe and sane products. It's not a matter of "if", it's "when" such a tragedy will happen. Steve Smith has demonstrated that even safe and sane fireworks can be dangerous in the hands of a knucklehead.
HERE'S A DEAL FOR YOU
But, I'll make you all a deal. I'll stop writing about this right now if ALL OF YOU who support the sale and discharge of fireworks will agree to attend the funeral of the child that is killed by fireworks in our city. I'll get off my bandwagon if you agree to visit the child in the hospital who is severely burned with fireworks. I'll stop if you can tell me that ANY youth sports program is worth the sight of a child's eye or third degree burns over his body. That's when I'll stop writing about this.