(KGTV) - Seven people were arrested and more than 49,000 pounds of fireworks were seized in what California authorities are calling one of the largest illegal fireworks seizures in state history.
According to Cal Fire officials:
“Following a months long investigation, CAL FIRE law enforcement officers arrested seven individuals and seized over 49,000 pounds of fireworks over the past two weeks in connection to a large-scale illegal firework ring. Law enforcement officers found these suspects have been illegally importing, transporting, storing, distributing and selling illegal and dangerous fireworks throughout California for more than 30 years.
CAL FIRE law enforcement officers seized over 49,000 pounds of illegal fireworks stored at locations in Copperopolis, Modesto, Salida, Hayward, Walnut Creek and Oakland. In addition a load of dangerous illegal fireworks, ready for transportation, was also discovered. Officers also seized over $115,000 as well as a variety of computers, cell phones, firearms and personal items.”
Officials arrested Donald Cerasi, Leon Cerasi, Maria San, Larry Lista, Jack Schroll and Michael Solorio in the fireworks bust. A seventh person arrested was not named.
Cal Fire officials said personnel from the ATF, California Highway Patrol, Calaveras County Sheriff’s Office and Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office took part in the operation. Ten search warrants were executed in Calaveras, Stanislaus, Alameda and Contra Costa counties.
In light of the operation and as the Fourth of July holiday approaches, Cal Fire officials are reminding the public of the state policy on the use and sale of illegal fireworks.
Cal Fire Director Chief Ken Pimlott said, “In California, we have a zero tolerance for the use and sale of illegal fireworks. 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.”
According to Cal Fire officials, fireworks on Independence Day account for two out of every five reported fires in the U.S.
Officials also said on average each year, fireworks in California start 18,500 fires, including 1,300 structure fires and 300 vehicle fires. These types of fires, on average, cause three deaths, 40 civilian injuries, and $43 million in direct property damage.
According to 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 percent of those injuries were to the extremities and 41 percent were to the head. Two-thirds (65 percent) of the injuries were burns; Children younger than 15 years of age accounted for one-quarter (26 percent) of the estimated injuries. Sparklers were the leading cause of fireworks injuries. More than half of the fireworks injuries incurred by children under five years of age were caused by sparklers.