The mayor and other Riverside officials put residents on notice Monday that use of illegal fireworks before, during and after the Fourth of July may result in steep fines, while urging everyone to instead enjoy pyrotechnic extravaganzas that will be free to the public.
"Let's be clear: all non-city-sponsored fireworks in the city are illegal," Mayor Patricia Lock Dawson said during a news briefing outside City Hall. "You will be cited if you're caught with those."
The minimum fine for possession, distribution or use of unlicensed devices is $1,000 — the same penalty that applies under a Riverside County ordinance.
"We're excited to be part of the Fourth of July, but take heed as we go into the season," Riverside Fire Department Chief Michael Moore said. "Leave the fireworks to the professionals. Let them do their job."
Moore noted that the one- to two-week period around the Fourth is the "busiest time of year for us."
"Last year, we had 1,200 calls for service for fire-type incidents," he said. "We had 18 actual structure fires. There were 500 more calls than in 2019. It's historically dry... (Winter season) precipitation was down 40%. There are light, flashy fuels, and a fire can spread quickly. Be careful."
The fire, police and code enforcement departments have formed a municipal Fireworks Enforcement Task Force, and personnel will be initiating active patrols starting Wednesday, according to police Chief Larry Gonzalez.
"You don't want to spend the holiday weekend getting cited," he said. "The Riverside Police Department takes the use of fireworks very seriously. Make no mistake: we will be citing people for illegal fireworks."
The city will be taking the unusual step of closing all access to Mount Rubidoux on the Fourth. Dawson said the move is intended to deter people from hiking the mountain and igniting fireworks for fun, creating wildfire hazards.
In previous years, the site has been one of several where fireworks spectaculars are offered. However, this year, due to heightened fire danger, the show will be held just below Mount Rubidoux at Ryan Bonaminio Park, according to the mayor.
"It's been so dry, and that's another reason to emphasize not to participate with illegal fireworks," Councilman Jim Perry said. "Look up into the sky, and leave the shows to the pros."
Gonzalez said all illegal fireworks activity should be reported via the city's 311 call center, or at 951-826-5311 and 951-354-2007, both non-emergency numbers.
In addition to the Bonaminio Park extravaganza, a fireworks show is scheduled at La Sierra Park. Both shows begin at 9 p.m. Sunday.
Last year, all fireworks celebrations were cancelled because of the coronavirus public health lockdowns.
In addition to multiple fires in the city, there were dozens in the unincorporated areas and other municipalities countywide on Fourth of July weekend 2020 due to illicit fireworks activity.
The county implemented an ordinance in April that raised fines, ranging from $1,000 to $5,000, for possession and use of illegal fireworks. Misdemeanor charges may also be filed.
A list of fireworks shows is available here.