San Jose officials crack down on illegal fireworks
Fireworks are illegal in San Jose and most of Santa Clara County. File photo.

    Citing the dangers of illegal fireworks, San Jose city leaders and first responders are urging residents to leave Fourth of July fireworks to the professionals and are cracking down on violators.

    At a news conference last week, Mayor Matt Mahan said people caught selling fireworks will face up to a $15,000 fine and potential jail time. The San Jose Police Department seized approximately 38,000 lbs. of illegal fireworks in a raid off Blossom Hill Road on June 29.

    Mahan said there were 150 fireworks related fires in the city over the past three Independence Day holidays, including 64 last year. Besides being illegal in San Jose, fireworks can cause bodily injury, create fires and damage property and the environment.

    “We hold folks accountable,” Mahan said.

    Fines for using fireworks are $1,000 for first-time violations. A second violation within 18 months is $2,000 and a third is $3,000. In 2021, the San Jose City Council passed a social host ordinance, which fines tenants and property owners for fireworks launched on their property. Homeowners will be held responsible for emergency response fees if police or firefighters are dispatched due to illegal fireworks.

    San Jose Fire Department Chief Robert Sapien, Jr. told San José Spotlight 311 reports and 911 fireworks related calls are plotted on a heat map. These locators help the fire department communicate with law enforcement and provide them with targeted locations to help suppress the volume of fireworks.

    SJFD Deputy Fire Chief James Dobson said residents need to provide a thorough level of detail in their reports to help stop this illegal behavior.

    “If we can identify a specific address… we can issue a social host ordinance. If resources get there and the fireworks are still going off and there are spectators, they can be issued citations as well,” he told San José Spotlight. “It’s about getting the resources there and the information necessary to issue the citations.”

    SJFD received 79 calls related to fireworks in 2022, including nine medical emergencies and 64 related to fires. There were 1,344 reports filed online and 527 calls made to 311 that resulted in 21 citations, one arrest and 252 warning notices.

    But resident Suzanne Marrone, who’s worked to stop illegal fireworks for years, said she is frustrated and the situation has not improved. She decided to take it upon herself decades ago to create the neighborhood group “Stop Illegal Fireworks,” which has since disbanded. Marrone said in the past, police didn’t make it a priority and she lived in terror as fireworks landed on her roof. She asked the former police chief to send some officers out as a deterrent, but it was to no avail.

    Nothing is enforced, she said.

    “I feel like it’s failed tremendously,” she told to San José Spotlight. “I live on North 17th Street. We’ve had fireworks every single night since May.” 

    Marrone objects to having to include a photo or video to report illegal fireworks to elicit a response from the fire and police departments.

    “The thing where you have to have photographic evidence is ludicrous,” she said. “It’s pitch dark… you don’t get faces and you get threatened when people see you. There just has got to be more buy in from the city.”

    Santa Clara County fire and medical personnel also issued firework safety warnings at a news conference last week at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center.

    Santa Clara County Assistant Fire Chief Brian Glass said first responders have witnessed severe burns, permanent disabilities and loss of life from illegal fireworks.

    “Many times, it’s not even the person lighting the fire that’s injured. It’s the bystanders,” he told San José Spotlight, “and many times those are our children.”

    Dr. Clifford Sheckter, director of the regional burn center at Valley Medical Center, said two to five people a day are admitted to the burn center around July 4, compared to an average of one a day at other times.

    The city is encouraging residents to call 311 or use the 311 app to report illegal fireworks. Reports can also be made online at If there is a fire or medical emergency, residents should call 911.

    Contact Lorraine Gabbert at [email protected].

    Where to watch fireworks in Santa Clara County

    July 4 fireworks will light up the skies after sunset throughout Santa Clara County on Tuesday night at the following venues:

    Cupertino: Cupertino Creekside Park, 10455 Miller Ave., 9:30 p.m.

    Gilroy: Gilroy High School, 710 W. 10th, 9:30 p.m.

    Milpitas: Milpitas Sports Center, 1325 E. Calaveras Blvd., Concert and fireworks 6-9 p.m.

    Morgan Hill: Outdoor Sports Complex, 16500 Condit Road, fireworks at dark

    Mountain View: Shoreline Amphitheater, One Amphitheatre Pkwy, at dark

    San Jose: Almaden Lake Park, 6099 Winfield Blvd., 9:15 p.m.

    San Jose: Discovery Meadow, 180 Woz Way, 9:30 p.m.

    Santa Clara: Great America, 4701 Great America Pkwy, 9:45 p.m.


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