As fire officials and residents prepare for and worry about extreme fire danger in Cambria’s pine forest, neighborhoods and the wildlands that surround them, one thing they’re all focused upon is an enhanced danger, especially during the next few weeks: The threat of illegal fireworks.
With wildfires raging recently to the north, south and east of Cambria, the phrase “personal fireworks” sends shivers up the spine of firefighters and emergency officials.
To recap: No personal or other fireworks are considered “safe and sane” in this area, no matter what the label says. The only fireworks allowed on the North Coast (except within the city of Morro Bay) are the ones that Pryo Spectaculars professionals will launch over the ocean at Shamel Park at dusk on Independence Day, Monday, July 4.
All other fireworks will be confiscated and can result in a warning, a ticket or citation, a fine of up to $2,000 and/or an arrest, depending on whether the person with the fireworks merely had them in his or her possession or was lighting them or caused damage or harm with them.
However, according to Cambria Fire Chief William Hollingsworth, “The intent is fire safety, not putting people in jail.”
He added that people who hear illegal fireworks going off, or who know of people who have them, should call 911 immediately.
Meanwhile, a team of more than a dozen volunteers and Cal Fire firefighters working with Red Cross on Saturday, June 25, “visited and distributed preparedness packets to 687 homes,” according to Sara Northrup, the nonprofit’s Central California preparedness manager.
“We received an overwhelmingly positive response from the residents we spoke with … and (they) were very grateful for the information.”
Among the volunteers was Bruce Fosdike, member of the county’s Fire Safe Council and Cambria’s Fire Safe Focus Group.
“I was with two nice ladies from San Luis and Arroyo Grande that came all that way to volunteer for us Cambria residents,” he wrote in an email interview.
Working their way along the Sunbury Avenue area, they handed out preparedness packets of information about making their homes fire safe. Fosdike also spoke to residents about the Focus Group’s push for developing “neighborhood emergency block plans,” especially during July, which was proclaimed recently by county supervisors to be Cambria Fire Awareness Month.
Fosdike also was able to reassure residents along the Covell Ranch shaded fuel break “about what we have accomplished (grants, portable wood mill, plan for the downed wood) and it seemed to ease their concern just knowing that it was not forgotten about.”
Fosdike praised Red Cross and Northrop for hosting the event, adding whimsically that because “I was able to wear a Red Cross vest, I did not look like a salesman.”
Focus group members and volunteers will have fire-preparedness information available at Cambria’s Fourth of July celebration at Shamel Park, and they’ll explain the neighborhood emergency block plan concept, which is designed to prepare loose coalitions of neighbors who can help each other during emergencies and natural disasters.
The members urge people to plan ahead, so neighbors will know how many people and pets are in their immediate area, which of those will need assistance, who their area leader should be, what transportation issues are and what their best escape routes will be (and yes, multiple routes are needed, in case primary routes are blocked).
“They’re probably not going to be able to use their cars to get out,” Bob Kelley said at the June 8 Focus Group meeting, because there will be a giant traffic jam, “so they’ll need a plan with two different ways to leave their area … how they can best move their people, dogs to the safe location.”
The Focus Group recommends holding a get-together or block party where these topics and others can be discussed before an emergency happens.