San Rafael, CA – Some safety messaging sounds like a broken record, but sometimes the repetition saves lives. The Marin County Fire Department, Marin County Parks and first-responders from local agencies are preparing for a busy summer and Fourth of July holiday by urging everyone to practice water safety around the ocean, bay and pools, and practice abstinence on fireworks.
Firefighters and other first responders regularly train for water rescues.
Battalion Chief Bret McTigue of Marin County Fire leads the department’s water rescue team. He’s been running a series of water rescue trainings the past few weeks both in swirling and unpredictable ocean water and fast-moving freshwater. More than 70 personnel from agencies up and down the West Coast have gone through the recent training, and hundreds of others did it in previous years.
“Unfortunately, we’re staying busy and have numerous rescues,” McTigue said. “There’s no doubt that we’re saving lives with all of our increased outreach and quick responses to calls. Having people take preventative action is by far the best way to avoid a tragedy.”
McTigue said parents need to make sure kids are water safe around all bodies of water, including small pools. Adults need to avoid distractions as they keep an eye on youngsters. Drowning continues to be a leading cause of injury and death for children ages 1-4.
Marin has experienced four open-water drownings recently – two on Tomales Bay, one at 10-Mile Beach on the Point Reyes coastline and one at Stinson Beach. A mix of alcohol consumption and hazardous surf can be a lethal combination, McTigue said. Wearing life jackets and having other floatation devices handy is a must.
“We urge people to go to a lifeguarded beach and pay close attention to the weather and water conditions,” McTigue said. “We see people get into trouble when they are unfamiliar with the ocean conditions, get complacent with the environment or become intoxicated and do something risky.”
When it comes to fireworks, it should be easy to remember: All forms of fireworks are illegal in Marin. The fireworks ordinance will be enforced to reduce fire risk, protect natural resources and – most importantly – to preserve personal safety.
Despite the high wildfire danger during the hot and dry season, some people don’t understand or respect the associated risks of using fireworks. Among the devastating results are skin burns, severe injuries to eyes, ears and extremities, structure fires, wildland fires and even death. Thousands of people nationwide, most often children and teens, are injured while using consumer fireworks every Fourth of July.
Folks who would like to see legal fireworks are encouraged to attend the Marin County Fair, which offers a fireworks display each night July 3-7 in San Rafael. The fair receives a permit from the City of San Rafael to conduct the nightly show.
“We’re a fire-prone community, and nobody is immune to it,” McTigue said. “We have zero tolerance on them here. Take your family to go see them at the fair or somewhere else, but do not fire them off yourselves. Please leave fireworks to the professionals.”
Marin was lucky last year on the Independence Day: There were no emergency calls related to fireworks in unincorporated Marin and no wildfires sparked by them.
Marin County Parks is especially diligent about promoting the rules at County parks and open spaces. The Marin County Code of Ordinances (Title 10 Parks, Section 10.08.020 fireworks) states: “No person shall possess, bring onto, set off or otherwise cause to explode within parks any firecrackers, skyrockets or other fireworks or explosives.”
Upton Beach, a four-acre stretch of Pacific beach just north of Stinson Beach, has been a popular site for Fourth of July fun and, unfortunately, illegal use of fireworks. The same situation has been experienced annually at Brighton Beach in Bolinas. Occasionally the people using fireworks are Marin residents, but often they are visitors who don’t know about the local ordinance prohibiting fireworks. Rental agencies are urged to notify renters about the fireworks law, and the Marin County Sheriff’s Office will have extra deputies on duty for enforcement over the holiday.
All illegal activities and behavior issues witnessed by Marin County Parks rangers will be reported to law enforcement or fire agencies, and enforcement will take place whether or not an incident takes place on private property or at a County government property. A misdemeanor offense of using or possessing fireworks in Marin could cost an offender $410 – that’s $100 for the base fine plus $310 in penalty assessments and surcharges.