City officials and first responders are imploring residents to leave fireworks to the professionals.
With the exception of permitted displays, fireworks are illegal in San Jose to use, possess, store or sell. Erica Ray, spokesperson for San Jose Fire Department, said even fireworks labeled “safe and sane” — which don’t leave the ground or explode — are illegal in the city.
San Jose Councilmember David Cohen said this year there will be an increased number of patrol officers driving around to crack down on illegal sparklers.
“When I speak to the captains in my district, they ensure me they will be visible,” he said.
Cohen said it’s important for people to report illegal fireworks. His office created yard signs to remind people fireworks are illegal and how to report their use.
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After complaints about illegal fireworks tripled during the pandemic, the San Jose police and fire departments dramatically increased citation fines last year. For first-time violations it’s $1,000. A second violation, within 18 months, is $2,000 and a third violation is $3,000.
A social host ordinance was also passed by the City Council last May, which fines tenants and property owners for fireworks launched on their property. Ray said homeowners will be held responsible for emergency response fees if police or firefighters are dispatched due to illegal fireworks.
City Councilmember Sergio Jimenez said the sale of fireworks can cost up to $50,000 plus jail time, depending on the quantity. Over the last two Independence Day holidays, there were approximately 86 fireworks-related fires in San Jose, Jimenez said, adding these fires caused property damage, environmental damage and were 100% preventable.
Ray said even seemingly harmless sparklers cause severe injuries every year, especially in young children.
Last year, the SJFD received 56 calls related to fireworks, with 27 fires resulting from them. More than 1,700 reports were filed online and 651 calls were made to 311 that resulted in 13 field citations, 10 online citations and 479 warning notices. Some of the hotspots are clustered in the downtown, East San Jose and Alviso.
Wildfires are another concern relating to illegal fireworks, especially with dry vegetation.
“We are facing drought conditions in San Jose and throughout the state,” Ray said. “All it takes is one spark from an illegal firework to start what could be a devastating fire to a residential neighborhood or park.”
San Jose fire crews may not be able to respond to every firework-related call unless fires or injuries are involved.
Residents observing illegal fireworks are asked to report the activity online by clicking here or through the city’s 311 app. Calls can also be made to 311 or 408-535-5600. In the case of an active fire or emergency, residents should call 911.
“If sufficient information is provided in that online report, the city’s code enforcement division will follow up to issue a citation,” Ray said. “If not enough evidence is provided, they may issue a warning.”
The city’s reporting system for illegal fireworks sparked controversy when officials erroneously issued citations — two years in a row — to people who didn’t possess or set off the sparklers. City officials tried to improve the situation by requiring residents to provide evidence when filing complaints, such as photos or videos.
Cohen said he hopes the number of people using illegal fireworks will decrease over time.
“I’m very frustrated by what I hear in my neighborhood and my dog hates it,” Cohen said to San José Spotlight. “It’s a big disruption.”
Contact Lorraine Gabbert at email@example.com.
Where to watch fireworks in Santa Clara County
July 4 fireworks will be lighting up the skies after sunset throughout Santa Clara County on Monday night at the following venues:
Cupertino: Cupertino Creekside Park, 10455 Miller Ave.
Gilroy: Gilroy High School, 710 W. 10th
Milpitas: Milpitas Sports Center, 1325 E. Calaveras Blvd.
Morgan Hill: Outdoor Sports Complex, 16500 Condit Road
Mountain View: Shoreline Amphitheater, One Amphitheatre Pkwy
San Jose: Discovery Meadow, 180 Woz Way
San Jose: Almaden Lake Park, 6099 Winfield Blvd.
San Jose Giants: 588 Alma Ave., fireworks display after the ball game
Santa Clara: Great America, 4701 Great America Pkwy
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