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The Big Day is coming, and it’s one Americans approach with great anticipation.

There are few words that describe Independence Day more perfectly than “fireworks!” Of course we get the kabooms on and around the New Year’s celebrations every year, but that’s minor league compared to the joy and all-out celebrations that occur on the Fourth of July.

The question is — are you ready?

The officially-sanctioned fireworks selling period in Santa Maria began last Friday, and lasts until 11 p.m. on Thursday, which is the Fourth of July.

You have likely already encountered, or visited, one or more of the vendor stands throughout the community, where only the so-called safe-and-sane sort of devices are sold. Safe-and-sane refers only to devices that don’t blow up or zing into the air. The safety aspect is vitally important, because the approaching holiday is one of the busiest of the year for hospital emergency rooms, mainly for treatment of fireworks-related mishaps. You really, truly don’t want to spend your Fourth at the ER.

Communities throughout California have questioned the wisdom of fireworks displays, of any kind, during one of the driest periods of our year, but in most cases — including here in the Santa Maria Valley — officials have opted to preserve the spirit of Independence Day by sponsoring professionally-handled fireworks shows, and by limiting legal sales of fireworks to the safe-and-sane sort.

That may be the official version. The unofficial version is that many Americans prefer to conduct their own fireworks shows in the back yard, and too many of those events result in the types of injuries that fill up ER waiting rooms on and around July 4.

There are valid reasons that the safe-and-sane rules were put into effect. First, limiting fireworks sales to non-exploding, non-flying devices should help reduce the ER waiting-room logjam. Second, prohibiting the aerial bombs may prevent someone from accidentally setting off the next Painted Cave, Zaca or Thomas fire.

Santa Maria city officials aren’t kidding about the use of illegal fireworks by private citizens. They have made it exponentially easier for a citizen to file a third-party citation against someone using fireworks, using a phone app that allows users to take photos of illegal fireworks in action and send GPS coordinates to the Santa Maria Police Department so officers can respond.

While some Santa Marians may see this as a police-state tactic, city officials actually are only responding to public feedback regarding the use of illegal fireworks. And here’s the clincher — folks caught and issued a citation can be on the hook for up to a $1,000 fine. Not much to celebrate about that.

Another important factor to keep in mind is that the vendor stands you see and visit around town are operated by community organizations, and the profits derived from selling the safe-and-sane devices generally go right back into the community in the form of services and programs that benefit you and your neighbors. If this revenue stream somehow dries up, those services and programs almost certainly would disappear or be severely restricted. And as of this writing, no viable replacement revenue sources have been identified for those local, good-deed-doing organizations.

A final word about fireworks. As a general rule, pets hate ‘em. To help those with noise-sensitive pets, the Santa Barbara County Animal Services shelter in Santa Maria offers animal crates available for loan. The shelter is located at 548 W. Foster Road.

Now, get ready to party.

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