This public letter was contributed by the San Benito Fire Safe Council. The opinions expressed do not necessarily represent BenitoLink or other affiliated contributors.
Honorable Members of the San Benito County Board of Supervisors,
The potential for catastrophic wildfire in most of the unincorporated areas of San Benito County is currently alarmingly high. Because of this, the San Benito Fire Safe Council urgently recommends that the Board of Supervisors amend its draft fireworks ordinance to include an immediate ban of the use of all fireworks, including those labeled “safe and sane”, in the State Responsibility Area (SRA) region of the county.
At its June 17, 2021 meeting, the San Benito Fire Safe Council discussed the draft fireworks ordinance presently under your consideration. Everyone present, including a local CAL FIRE Battalion Chief and the Acting Hollister Fire Chief, agreed the draft was an improvement over current provisions, but that all fireworks need to be banned from some rural areas. Acting Chief Charlie Bedolla argued convincingly that such a ban was appropriate for the SRA region, where CalFire has primary responsibility for wildfire suppression.
Last year, California’s wildfire season was record-breaking with nearly 4.4 million acres burned – over 4% of the state’s area. This year is widely feared to be worse. An historically dry spring has followed an historically dry winter and we have had record-breaking heat before the official beginning of summer.
In 2020, San Benito County had 23 structure and vegetation fires related to the misuse of legal and illegal fireworks. The major fires in recent years demonstrated that fires starting in fire-prone wild areas can grow swiftly and burn urban areas. San Juan Bautista and Hollister are at risk of experiencing similar catastrophic events as experienced by Paradise, Redding, Santa Barbara, Sonoma, and Santa Rosa. For most people, such events were inconceivable until recently.
Amending the fireworks ordinance to include an immediate ban of all fireworks within the SRA would significantly reduce this source of wildfire and the associated injury, loss of life, and property damage.
Thank you for your consideration of this urgent matter.
San Benito Fire Safe Council