Porterville Church of God Pastor David White put it bluntly when he talked about the more than $20,000 the sale of Safe and Sane Fireworks for his parish.

“That's a lot of bake sales,” White said. “There's no replacing it. You can't do anything close to it.”

The City of Porterville is grappling with the proliferation of illegal fireworks that happened this year. White admitted illegal fireworks were a problem this year. “I know this year was bad,” he said. “It was bad.”

But White said banning the sale of safe and sane fireworks will do nothing to eliminate illegal fireworks. He said other parts of the state have banned the sale of fireworks, but illegal fireworks continue to be fired off as much as ever in those areas.

At its meeting on Tuesday night, Porterville City Council and staff concluded nothing could really be done at the city level and whatever action needed to be taken needed to be taken at the county level.

Porterville City Manager John Lollis said the city wouldn't really put a dent into the problem if it took action alone without any action being taken on the county level.

Lollis suggested the possibility of a county task force as an enforcement tool against illegal fireworks. White said he liked that idea. “I'm all for having a task force,” he said.

Porterville Fire Chief Dave LaPere also testified at Tuesday's meeting the use of safe and sane fireworks on July 4 makes enforcement more difficult when it comes to illegal fireworks. He said illegal fireworks are shot off much more on July 4 with safe and sane fireworks serving as a cover.

White admitted that's an issue. “That's a great point he makes,” White said.

But again White said banning the sale of safe and sane fireworks won't solve that problem. He again pointed out in other areas of the state people continue to shoot off illegal fireworks even when there's no camouflage of legal fireworks because they're banned.

There are about 13 booths that are allowed to sell fireworks in Porterville. There are more applicants than booths available, so applicants are chosen by a lottery. White said the fact there are more applicants than booths available shows just how effective and popular the sale of safe and sane fireworks as a fundraiser is.

At the council meeting on Tuesday it was pointed out non-proft groups keep about 30 to 40 percent of the profits from their sale of safe and sane fireworks. White admitted his church kept about a third of this year's profits.

But White said his church made $65,000 in sales this year, so the church ended up with close to $22,000.

Granted for the second straight year, White's church had a prime location in the Wal-Mart parking lot. But he added all of the non-profit organizations who had booths this year sold out their fireworks. White said his church sold out their fireworks by 6 p.m. July 4. So he said the citizens of Porterville have spoken and they want safe and sane fireworks.

White said especially this year during the COVID-19 pandemic when churches haven't been able to meet which has had an impact on offerings, the sell of safe and sane fireworks as a fundraiser has been vital.

“It's going to carry us through the year,” said White about the fundraiser helping his church continue no matter what happens the rest of the year.

He added about a quarter of the profits from safe and sane fireworks fundraiser funds the church's community outreach to feed the hungry and provide English classes to immigrant workers. Other proceeds from the fundraiser fund mission trips to third-world countries and send youth to summer and winter camps, he added.

He also said the fundraiser benefited his daughter, who spent the past two years with the Monache Marauder Band, helping fund her trip to the nation's capital last summer.

“None of these things happen if we have to depend on bake sales and TV raffles,” White said.

White has been the pastor of Porterville Church of God since 2011. This year was the seventh time the church has had a fireworks booth. This year was the first time the church sold out as it was a record year for the church in sales and profit.

It was also questioned at Tuesday's meeting if the benefits of the sale of safe and sane fireworks outweighs the drawbacks. White said it does.

“The work that we're able to do far outweighs whatever costs there are,” he said.


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