Kern Co. hired a drone to catch illegal fireworks. They didn’t issue a single fine from it.

Kern County’s tough-on-fireworks initiative appears to be all bark, no bite.

Central Valley law enforcement agencies spend much of the run-up to Indepdnence Day pleading with the public to cease from using illegal fireworks, with threats of exceedingly expensive fines hanging over the head of residents.

But are law enforcement agencies following through with the threats? A new report indicates not really.


Driving the news: The Kern County Fire Department (KCFD) tapped a specialized drone to identify potential illegal fireworks users.

But instead of issuing citations based on the drone’s findings, the agency sent warning letters to 132 potential lawbreakers identified last year.

The drone contractor, Overwatch Aero LLC, was responsible for identifying these individuals, and Deputy County Counsel Jeremy McNutt confirmed that warning letters were sent instead of citations, per a Bakersfield Californian report.

The reason for issuing warning letters instead of citations is unclear, as KCFD spokesperson Capt. Andrew Freeborn admitted that he doesn’t know why this decision was made. KCFD Chief Aaron Duncan did not make himself available for comment.

The other side: Other California law enforcement agencies have issued citations based on drone footage captured by companies like Overwatch Aero. The Santa Maria Fire Department issued 22 citations, while the Salinas Fire Department issued citations to eight individuals, resulting in a collection of $84,000 in fines.

Fire Marshal Skylar Thornton from the Salinas Fire Department argues that citations have more impact in changing behavior compared to warning letters: “The citation is more of a deterrent because the warning (letter) is going to get thrown in the trash.”

The bottom line: Kern County Fire contracted with Overwatch Aero for $44,500 to conduct drone flights, with the expectation that citations would offset the budget hit.

While KCFD intended to issue citations when they contracted with the drone company, the agency now claims that the public awareness of drones being deployed acts as a deterrent and contributes to a decrease in illegal firework use.

Related Posts