A Relatively Quiet 4th in Morro Bay

Written by Neil Farrell

Neil has been a journalist covering the Estero Bay Area for over 27 years. He’s won numerous journalism awards in several different categories over his career.

July 15, 2020

Though there were instances of people shooting off fireworks on 4th of July, the Morro Bay Fire Chief is quite pleased with what he called, “the safest Fourth of July Holiday” in over two decades.

Public fireworks shows were cancelled in Cayucos and Cambria on the North Coast due to the coronavirus pandemic response, and there were concerns that would lead to people doing their own fireworks shows, possibly unsafely.

Essentially, in Morro Bay any fireworks that shoot into the sky and/or explode are illegal. The so-called “Safe-n-Sane” fireworks varieties, which are sold annually at various non-profit stands, are not allowed to be shot off on public property — streets, sidewalks, parks and beaches included — but can be set off on private property, like driveways. Enforcement has always been difficult.

Morro Bay Fire Chief Steve Knuckles said they had certain objectives going into this 4th of July — to reduce or eliminate the use of illegal firework use by visitors on City beaches and the Rock parking lots; to educate the visitor industry on Morro Bay’s firework ordinance; and, to educate the public about Safe-n-Sane usage on private property.

“We had positive results with our prevention education with our RV parks, hotels, and social media,” said Knuckles. “There was no fireworks usage on our City beaches and we only had a couple of incidents in our Rock parking lot that posed no harm to our community.”

The City put out the word that illegal fireworks would be met with harsh punishments, including a $1,000 fine that the fire chief said, “was extremely helpful especially with our visitors.”

Even the beach, which was a specific concern for the fire department, was largely fireworks free, according to the fire chief.

“This is the first time,” Chief Knuckles said, “where our City beaches were clear of firework debris. There was much activity north of Morro Bay’s beaches on the State Beaches and in Cayucos. I would say our community was about half full as compared to the last few weekends. After dusk, our Rock parking lot was only 25% full.”

The fire department, police and even harbor patrol were out in the neighborhoods keeping an eye on things. “I traveled through our streets and I saw families having fun,” Knuckles said. “I did not locate any violations with the usage of Safe-n-Sane fireworks in our community.

“During the evening I was really pleased to see our residents following our guidelines with Safe-n-Sane fireworks on their private property.”

Despite his report, there have been a lot of complaints posted on the Nextdoor Morro Bay gossip website. “I understand there is chatter going off all over town about illegal fireworks throughout town,” Chief Knuckles said. “Yes, there was illegal fireworks shot off in our town, which is difficult to issue citations unless you were at the right place at the right time, but we had much less as compared to years past.
“I am quite aware there was and were violations occurring, but with this year’s reduction, they were simply hard to catch.”

Chief Knuckles has been here a long time and attests to a drop in illegal fireworks. “In short, this is my 21st Fourth of July event in Morro Bay. I would say we had a 75% reduction in our illegal firework usage and double the usage of Safe-n-Sane fireworks by our residents on their private property.”

As for the stats on 4th of July, Chief Knuckles said there were no fires caused by fireworks; no reported injuries caused by fireworks; and no citations for illegal fireworks were written.

“This year was the safest Fourth of July Holiday I have witnessed in Morro Bay since 1999,” Chief Knuckles said.

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