Honk if you found one of these six inch rockets on your roof.

For 26 years the City of Fullerton has hosted a popular fireworks display launched from Fullerton College and visible from the Fullerton Union High School stadium and other vistas throughout the city. Two and half years ago, a citywide vote led to the controlled sale of “safe and sane” fireworks at a limited number of locations for a few days leading up the the July 4 holiday. Sales benefit local non-profits selected from a lottery drawing of applicants. It’s so tightly controlled that these legal fireworks are only allowed be ignited between the hours of 10:00 a.m  and 10:00 p.m. on July 4. Aerial fireworks of any kind are banned.

In reality, legal fireworks are set off well after the 10:00 p.m. curfew, and illegal fireworks abound in the city long before and after the July 4 holiday at any hour of the day or night. Aeriel fireworks soaring hundreds of feet high and capable of landing on dry rooftops are a common sight at night. Window rattling explosions that sound more like military ordinance than festive noisemakers continue unabated, making the city sound like a war zone. One has to wonder how these shockingly loud explosives can be set off from the same locations, sometimes night after night, without interruption by the authorities.

On the evening of July 4 a police dispatcher estimated the number of calls concerning illegal fireworks to the department on that day alone to be 200. Naturally, callers are asked for the address of residences where illegal fireworks are being ignited. Of course, it is difficult for callers to know exact addresses when explosions are heard or rockets launched blocks away.

Even a causal observer can attest to the fact that the problem of illegal fireworks has gotten worse since Fullerton allowed for the sale of the legal varieties two years ago, and the police department seems to be able to do little or nothing about  the spread of dangerous pyrotechnics. Instead, the city’s strategy seems to be to bear with it while it lasts, hope for the best, and prepare for the worst. Fire department crews and volunteers stand by for possible fires in the hills, while firefighters can be found at quaint neighborhood block parties with their trucks available for inspection by residents.

The sale of legal fireworks has made the use of illegal ones easier, and emboldened those who profit by the sale of them. Dangerous rockets and explosives can easily be purchased in neighboring states, and Mexico, and transported back to Southern California. Are these the “illuminations” cited by City Council during the vote to place the legality measure on the ballot in 2012 (over the objections of the fire chief)? What is most startling is that, other than a web page dedicated to “fireworks sales and discharge,” city officials seem to have nothing public to say about the problem. If the City of Fullerton cares about the quality of life experienced by its residents, then it should either come up with a better strategy to protect people and property from illegal fireworks and their noise, or look closely at the downside of allowing the sale of the legal ones.