In time for the Fourth of July holiday, fire agencies from throughout Santa Clara County have partnered to remind residents that fireworks are illegal, dangerous and can result in fires and injuries that are easily preventable.
Residents will incur fines for using, possessing, storing, or selling illegal fireworks. Santa Clara County’s ‘social host’ Fireworks Ordinance also holds property owners responsible for any illegal use of fireworks on their property.
This year, the danger of fireworks-caused fires is extreme because of drought conditions, they said.
“Vegetation is drought-stressed, dry and primed to burn,” said Santa Clara County Acting Fire Chief Brian Glass. “It is absolutely critical that residents understand the extreme risk of fire at a time of the year when the weather is hot and vegetation is susceptible. We know that one spark can have disastrous consequences.”
A countywide public outreach and education campaign began June 21 to educate residents that when it comes to fireworks, “It’s Not Worth It” and can result in dangerous fires and serious injuries. Cities throughout the county will focus efforts on enforcement and residents are encouraged to report illegal fireworks to local authorities.
Updated in December 2020, the City of San José now has some of the steepest fines for illegal fireworks use: $1,000 for the first violation, $2,000 for a second violation within 18 months, and $3,000 for a third violation.
Fines for the sale of fireworks can reach $50,000 plus jail time, depending on the quantity.
The City’s recently updated Social Host Ordinance expands liability to the social host, or person hosting a gathering where fireworks are used. The social host and property owner will be held liable for fines associated with illegal fireworks use as well as any emergency response costs resulting from the use of illegal fireworks.
“The Bay Area saw a dramatic increase in illegal fireworks activity during this time last year, resulting in over 30 preventable fireworks-related fires in San José alone,” said Robert Sapien Jr., San José Fire Department Fire Chief.
“Deciding to use illegal fireworks is also deciding to put your neighbor’s lives and property at risk,” he said. “Under current drought conditions, illegal fireworks put the entire community at risk. We’re asking for assistance in keeping our community safe by urging residents to comply with fireworks bans and encouraging community members to report illegal fireworks activity using our online reporting tool to assist the City with taking enforcement actions.”
The National Fire Protection Association reports that fireworks start an average of 19,500 fires per year, 59% of which were reported as brush, grass or forest fires. These fires caused an average of five deaths, 46 civilian injuries, and an average of $105 million in direct property damage.
Although this Fourth of July holiday also comes at a unique time when residents are enjoying a return to normal activities and social events, fire officials encourage residents to continue to follow current public health orders and recommendations, find safe activities and leave fireworks to the professionals by visiting an authorized public display.
All types of fireworks, even those labeled 'safe and sane' are illegal in San José and most of Santa Clara County. Community members are encouraged to report illegal fireworks online:
- SNAP: Safely take a photo or video of the illegal firework activity.
- CLICK: Visit www.sanjoseca.gov/fireworks.
- REPORT: Fill out the online form with complete and accurate information regarding the illegal fireworks activity.
Residents may also report fireworks year-round via a 24-hour hotline at (408) 535-5600 or by calling 311. The online reporting tool is available year-round.
All reports will be reviewed and if sufficient information and evidence is provided, the city’s Code Enforcement Division will issue a warning or citation.