San Jose sets sights on illegal fireworks

With about two weeks left until the Fourth of July holiday, San Jose city leaders have a plan that would expand a crackdown on illegal fireworks, which has become a growing concern for residents.

Speaking outside San Jose Fire Station No. 8 this morning, Mayor Sam Liccardo, Vice Mayor Rose Herrera and City Councilman Raul Peralez announced an ordinance that would allow non-sworn city employees to cite people found with illegal fireworks.

The city’s police officers and firefighters had a difficult time enforcing fireworks ordinances even when staffing levels were sufficient 10 years ago, Liccardo said.

The non-sworn employees, such as park rangers, code enforcement and community officers, would be able to cite people found using, possessing, selling, advertising, transporting or manufacturing fireworks based on witness observations, according to Liccardo.

“What we are seeing now is a disturbance that rivals many of the large public fireworks shows that are being routinely set off by professionals,” Liccardo said.

Fireworks are especially hazardous in the current hot and dry conditions caused by drought, Herrera said.

The intensity and number of illegal fireworks in the city has increased in recent years, according to Herrera:

“We had over 2,000 calls in San Jose for the months of June and July in 2014 alone.”

Peralez, a former San Jose police officer, was on patrol during the July 4 holiday last year and recalled an incident within his beat in the east side of the city where a man lost both his hands after a firework he was holding exploded.

Peralez also spoke of a fireworks explosion on Wednesday in Fairfield where a man suffered serious injuries after constructing fireworks that exploded in his garage:

“We have a number of these incidents year after year that make the news that tell people how dangerous it is to be dealing with professional-grade fireworks illegally when you’re not a professional.”

They encouraged the public to view public fireworks displays supported by the city on July 4 including ones at Discovery Meadow, Almaden Lake Park and Municipal Stadium.

They are calling on the City Council to consider the proposal during its meeting on Tuesday.

Juan Estrada of the community group District 5 United! in East San Jose hopes the City Council supports the ordinance, which would:

“… allow the city to more effectively and practically penalize those that allow fireworks or who light illegal fireworks on their properties.”

The fireworks scare children, including his 1-year-old daughter, and pets and keep people awake at night, Estrada said.

Suzanne Morrone, a 48-year resident of District 3, said the illegal fireworks could have an adverse effect on combat veterans, one being her husband and veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.