There are more fireworks set off on July Fourth than any other day of the year. Rather than shooting them into the night sky, however, a 20-year-man allegedly fired them at Santa Cruz police officers.
Police were responding to a fire on the 200 block of First Avenue around 9:45 p.m. Friday night, which was believed to have been caused by the use of illegal fireworks. While the police were attempting to clear an intersection, someone in the crowd of spectators threw burst-style fireworks at the officers’ feet.
According to a police report, the fireworks exploded within 5 yards of the officers. The officers suffered only temporarily hearing loss from the incident.
Witnesses in the large crowd at the 200 block of First Avenue identified the fireworks-throwing perpetrator as Nathan Hansel of Ben Lomond, whom was arrested on site and charged with one felony count of suspicion of assaulting a police officer.
Fireworks have become a growing problem in Santa Cruz, as the region’s exceptionally dry climate creates the perfect climate for wildfires and house fires. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reports that more house fires occur on July Fourth than any other day of the year, causing dozens of injuries and millions of dollars in property damage.
In an effort to protect the public, the use of unauthorized fireworks remains illegal in Santa Cruz; however, that’s not stopping some residents from bringing them across state lines. Mike Venezio of the Santa Cruz Fire Department notes that the use of fireworks has increased over the years, causing tree fire, brush fires and house fires.
“Each year there’s more and more that are coming in, all over the city, all over our county. And those are the ones that go up in the air, catch trees on fire, brush,” said Battalion Chief Mike Venezio.
The Santa Cruz Fire Department believes illegal fireworks are also to blame for a neighborhood fire that destroyed 3 vehicles. Thanks to a prompt response by the fire department, crews were able to contain the fires and prevent them from spreading to nearby homes and structures.
“[Fireworks] Caught the tree on fire and then dropped down in what appears to be a convertible, caught that vehicle on fire and two others along with it,” said Venezio.
Note: the use of illegal fireworks in Santa Cruz is punishable with a maximum fine of $700.