Fernando Moreno admits he fired off a mortar on July 4th, sending an illegal explosive projectile — a firework — shooting skyward.
He described how he and a friend set two ballistic tubes on the street outside a home, set fire to a stick and used that to launch the fireworks.
“I knew. It was an error that I lit it up,” Moreno said.
On Wednesday he went before City of Bakersfield Hearing Officer Oliver Robinson and begged him to show mercy and reduce the $1,000 fine Moreno earned after a Bakersfield Fire Department enforcement officer watched him launch the illegal firework.
“I don’t have the money,” he said.
While he has already paid the fine to the city — something he had to do before he could appeal — the money he used was a loan, Moreno said.
“Mr. Moreno was caught red-handed. He admits to it. He was issued a $1,000 citation. We’re asking that the hearing officer uphold the fine in this case,” said city lawyer Josh Rudnick, who was prosecuting the appeal.
Wednesday was the first of two special hearings scheduled to handle appeals of citations from this summer’s fireworks enforcement season. Five people argued against their fines Wednesday.
Four others didn’t show, forfeiting their appeals.
Robinson told Moreno he would issue his ruling within 10 days.
The next petitioner, Elena Noriega, was busted by none other than Bakersfield City Councilman Chris Parlier and Bakersfield City Fire Department Battalion Chief John Frando.
Frando, the fire department public information officer, said he was doing a ride-along with Parlier when they saw aerial fireworks being launched from the backyard of a home that backed up to Harris Road.
“We sat in our car with the lights off just witnessing fireworks going off. We were able to confirm which backyard fireworks were being shot off from,” Frando said. “These were aerial fireworks. They went up high and exploded.”
They called in enforcement units that, unable to contact the homeowners, mailed a citation to them.
Noriega said friends of her teenaged son brought the fireworks over to her home and set them off. But she didn’t know they were illegal.
“I know they shoot up in the air,” she said.
“Any firework that leaves the ground is illegal in the city of Bakersfield,” Frando said.
“If they were illegal I want to apologize. I wouldn’t allow them. His friends brought them over. We don’t buy them,” she said.
“You may not have known about it but you saw them leave the ground,” Rudnick said.
“My son’s pretty much grounded,” Noriega said.
Robinson told her, as with Moreno, she would learn his ruling on her appeal in 10 days.
Robinson also deferred a ruling on the appeal of Fred Martinez, who admitted that there were the remains of illegal fireworks — bottle rockets and modified piccolo petes — in his yard when officers came to investigate a complaint from a neighbor.
But he said he wasn’t at the house — and neither was anyone else — when the fireworks were set off.
Why then were two children seen by fire officials running inside his home from his backyard?
Martinez said he doesn’t know and his neighbor is on a campaign to get him in trouble.
The city fireworks ordinance, he said, just handed her a way to extort $1,000 out of him every year.
Like the others, Martinez will find out his fate within the next 10 days.
Anyone who doesn’t like the outcome of their appeal hearing, said city lawyer Richard Iger, can take the case to small claims court.
Robinson did make one ruling Wednesday.
He dismissed a citation against a property on Lester Street after the absentee owner showed a satellite photo of the backyard of the home next door.
Bakersfield Fire Department Capt. Vic Mabry said he and another fireworks enforcement team member observed aerial fireworks being launched from a backyard while sitting in the alley behind the house.
They looked over the fence and saw smoke coming from the yard near an above-ground pool on the property and they smelled gun powder.
They drove around the property and identified 1920 Lester St. as the home where they’d seen the fireworks.
But the owner’s satellite photo showed an above-ground pool in the property one space to the west and none in the back of his property.
Mabry and his partner said a mistake could have been made.
“I’m inclined to dismiss this citation at this time,” Robinson said.
And he did.