While the draw of bright, sparkling lights against the night sky is undeniable, fireworks are illegal in Lake Forest. According to police, setting off unapproved pyrotechnics has the potential to turn a fun Independence Day into a fiery nightmare.
"The 4th of July is a day to celebrate," said Orange County sheriff's Lt. Pat Higa. "This can quickly turn into a personal disaster by igniting an illegal firework. Placing fire to a combustible device can have some unintended consequences with the potential of injury, especially to young children."
While the Fourth of July hasn't yet arrived, local residents have already begun hearing fireworks being set off around town, according to the sheriff's blotter.
Seven firework violations have been reported since Saturday, when the first call about an explosion came into dispatchers at about 8 p.m. from the 29000 block of Canyon Crest Drive.
More reports of explosions came in later that night, first from the area of Rivendell Drive and Jeronimo, then near Vista Fusco and Pizarro Road. A third was reported at about 11 p.m. from the 20700 block of El Toro Road.
Lake Forest residents also heard fireworks go off midday Sunday, near the 23100 block of La Vaca Stree. After the sun set Sunday, Foothill Ranch residents called in reports of fireworks being set off in neighborhoods near La Perla and Romano, and on Fairfield.
It's easy to find a place in South County to watch fireworks without setting them off yourself and risking fines or injuries, said Higa, chief of Lake Forest Police Services.
"The excitement and joy of watching fireworks can still experienced at night by a variety of sanctioned venues within the city and by neighboring communities," he said.
Lake Forest's private sets off an approved volley of rockets from a barge on the lake each year shortly after 9 p.m.
Those explosions, as well as firework displays in Irvine and other nearby communities, are easily visible from some of the higher areas in town, such as the top of Peachwood.
As summer heat dries the Orange County landscape, any illegal fireworks set off on the Fourth of July also pose a fire risk, Higa said.
"Lake Forest is well-known for its trees and rural look. Fireworks, especially during this dry time of the year, pose a danger to the natural landscape as well as to the people living and visiting the city," Higa said. "We all know the dangers once an errant firework ignites a fuel source."
Time spent preventing fireworks from turning into wildfires also takes deputies and firefighters away from other calls, he added.