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Filmore, CA Residents Divided Over Fireworks Tradition

Aired July 4, 2000 - 2:22 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: The city of Chicago kicked off its Independence Day celebration last night with this massive fireworks display. Officials estimate more than 1 million people showed up for the city's downtown Lake Front viewing of the spectacle.

Despite the dangers, Americans continue to hold their own 4th of July fireworks displays.

CNN's Greg LaMotte reports from one town in California where they are divide over that tradition.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GREG LAMOTTE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hands blown off, children's clothes ignited, faces and eyes damaged by exploding devices, huge, devastating fires. It's what can and does happen with fireworks.

But, today, is the 4th of July.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People somehow seem to think that it's their God given right to set off fireworks.

LAMOTTE: Despite the dangers, Filmore, California, like many communities across the nation, allows the sale of what are called safe and sane fireworks.

(on camera): Is there such a thing as safe and sane firework?

JOE LUNA, VENTURA COUNTY FIRE DEPT.: Not in my opinion. All fireworks have a potential for personal injury and the cause of fire.

LAMOTTE: Much to its dismay, the Ventura County Fire Department has been unable to get Filmore to stop selling potentially hazardous fireworks. The reason: economics.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're a low income community, and we don't know how we would survive without having the income from the fireworks.

LAMOTTE: The sale of fireworks means about a million dollars a year to various nonprofit groups in Filmore.

CHIEF PAT ASKREN, FILMORE CALIF. FIRE DEPT.: Your Rotary clubs, your Lions club, your Railroad Historical Society, your little leagues, your youth football, all of those organizations make enough money to keep those activities going.

LAMOTTE: Fireworks started this blaze. Two Ventura County teenagers were charge after the fire caused $5 million damage. The teens were billed nearly a half million dollars for the cost of fighting the fires. Even so, fireworks sales are strong.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: There is always a risk you got to take when you do it, you know, whether it is like maybe you get hurt or maybe start a fire or whatever, but it's fun because they give off a nice show.

LAMOTTE: Exactly the reason fire departments beg communities to stay away from these, and instead take the family to one of these.

Greg LaMotte, CNN, Filmore, California.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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