Wednesday, September 22, 2021     Volume: 22, Issue: 29

Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on July 28th, 2021, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 22, Issue 22 [ Submit a Story ]
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Veterans say fireworks affect them beyond July 4

By Malea Martin

Local veterans say fireworks are a multi-month ordeal in Santa Maria.

Matthew Woody, a local resident and veteran, spoke during public comment at a July 20 Santa Maria City Council meeting where Fire Chief Todd Tuggle presented a fireworks report to the council members. Woody said he started hearing fireworks as early as May this year, and it’s still impacting him now, nearly a month after Independence Day. 

During the July 20 Santa Maria City Council meeting, local veteran Matthew Woody said that fireworks season seriously impacts his well-being.

“I’ve noticed that every year, these fireworks seem to be getting worse, and worse, and worse,” Woody said. “Now, as a veteran with PTSD, it’s very all-encompassing, and pretty much takes over your life. … We had fireworks going off when I was trying to work from my home yesterday.”

Woody said that every year, he leaves town and rents a hotel room to get away from the loud firework booms that can trigger his PTSD. 

“I would just like some peace and quiet in this neighborhood,” he said.

Santa Maria started the “Safe and Sane” fireworks program to mitigate some of these issues. The Fire Department grants permits to local nonprofits, this year 23 of them, to sell legal fireworks that can only be used between the hours of 11 a.m. and 11 p.m. on the Fourth of July. 

Woody said that if it was only an issue on the Fourth of July holiday, he wouldn’t be standing before the council. Per the city’s rules, any firework usage outside of the specified hours on the Fourth is illegal. 

This year, according to the fireworks report, 16 citations were issued for illegal fireworks usage, 14 of which were dealt a $1,000 fine. This is down from previous years, according to Police Department data shared with the Sun: In 2020, 27 citations were issued, and 32 in 2019. The city’s fireworks hotline received 63 reports this year, compared to 81 last year and 71 the year before. 

“The police up-staffed for fireworks enforcement for the period from June 29 through July 5, including a two-person patrol unit, plainclothes officer, a sergeant, and a dispatcher to take the additional call volume,” Tuggle added at the July 20 meeting. 

But despite these efforts, local veterans are still being affected.

“Most veterans don’t care if it’s just July 4, but it goes on for sometimes weeks at a time,” said Joseph Skoda, commander of Disabled American Veterans Chapter 82, the local chapter based in Santa Maria. “A lot of us are afraid of the loud bangs and lights and noises that we’re unsure of. … We can be afraid to go out in our own communities. We have pride, we want to see the fireworks—but just on the Fourth.”

Skoda told the Sun that he thinks the city should designate a place for people to be able to set off their fireworks so that those who don’t want to hear them can stay in their homes.

“I personally think we should open up the Fairpark and allow everyone to shoot their fireworks off there in a safe environment,” he said. 

Mayor Alice Patino acknowledged at the City Council meeting that illegal fireworks are still out of hand in the city of Santa Maria, and resolved to continue to work on the issue.

“It’s a community problem, and I think we need to solve it as a community,” Patino said. “We just need to be more aggressive on how we’re going to do this. … We will continue to work on this.” 

Weekly Poll
What are the most important conversations to be having right now when it comes to policing?

We need to address how racial bias influences policing.
We should focus on funding the police so they can do their job.
Mental health is where our dollars need to go, both in and out of the police department.
As one Sept. 20 community input meeting attendee said,

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