(MARTINEZ, Calif.) The Contra Costa County Fire Protection District, or Con Fire as it's commonly called, made multiple arrests for illegal fireworks sales this month when investigators went undercover, according to officials.
Investigators conducted a number of undercover operations to get illegal fireworks off the streets and detailed four such operations that took place in Pittsburg, Antioch, San Pablo and Concord.
On June 11, Con Fire officials conducted an undercover buy of illegal fireworks at multiple locations in PIttsburg. The purchases eventually led investigators to two Pittsburg residences with thousands of dollars of illegal fireworks. Officials did not release the names of those individuals as the investigation is ongoing.
Four days later, in San Pablo, Con Fire investigators arrested a 16-year-old resident on suspicion of fire to inhabited structures and possession of dangerous fireworks.
"Additional fireworks of the type that caused the fire were located and recovered from the apartment," Con Fire Spokesperson Steve Hill said in a statement reported by Patch. "The juvenile's name is not being released because of his age. He was released to his parents' custody after the arrest. Con Fire continues to investigate this case and will refer it to the District Attorney and Con Fire's Youth Firesetter Program."
On June 17, Con Fire investigators arrested 25-year-old Pittsburg resident Kevin Thomas on G and W 10th streets for allegedly unlawfully advertising a business venture involving fireworks.
"The fireworks intended to be sold were seized as evidence," Hill said. "Thomas was identified as an active parolee, recently released from the California Department of Corrections, as the result of a robbery conviction. The seller was issued a criminal citation."
On June 21, Con Fire investigators used social media to track down the individual who had posted an advertisement for illegal fireworks for sale in Contra Costa County which reportedly led them to a location on Port Chicago Highway at Bates Avenue.
"Meeting with the seller, investigators confirmed illegal fireworks were being sold and arrested Thomas Daeshawn, 22, a resident of Concord, seizing 90 pounds of fireworks as evidence," said Hill.
Daeshawn, who was on probation for an Alameda County robbery conviction, was issued a criminal citation and Con Fire reportedly reached out to Alameda County for a possible probation violation. He was sighted on suspicion of unlawful sale, transfer, giving, delivery or any other conveyance of title of any dangerous firework and unlawful possession of fireworks without holding a valid permit.
This comes two weeks after the city of Richmond offered residents a $2,500 reward for reporting anyone with illegal fireworks. Notably, that reward stands for anyone who is setting off illegal fireworks, not just the selling.
In 2020, Richmond Police reportedly received nearly 2,600 reports of illegal fireworks being set off and records indicate only one citation was issued.
Similarly, San Mateo County raised its illegal fireworks fine to $1,000 in late May. In that case, the county's Board of Supervisors made the lighting of any firework, even those deemed safe like sparklers, snakes or smoke balls illegal. This was the first time in 35 years San Mateo County had changed their law.
These changing laws and increased sting operations indicate a harsher approach to illegal fireworks than in years past. Whether it is driven by increasingly arid conditions or just a general increase in the sale of the fireworks is unclear but regardless, a number of Bay Area cities are taking increased measures to combat the distribution and use of illegal fireworks ahead of the July Fourth holiday.
According to Hill, residents can help in this important public safety mission by reporting illegal fireworks sales to the Arson Tip Line at 1-866-50-ARSON.
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