Still illegal and louder than ever, San Jose residents fired up over nightly fireworks

Amanda del Castillo Image
Friday, June 19, 2020
Still illegal and louder than ever, San Jose residents fired up over nightly fireworks
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Still illegal and louder than ever, that's how residents across San Jose are describing firework activity which started back in mid-May.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- Still illegal and louder than ever - that's how residents across San Jose are describing firework activity which started back in mid-May.

"This has been non-stop, every night. On all social media platforms- Facebook, Nextdoor, you just see dozens and dozens and dozens of inquiries," Roosevelt Park neighborhood resident, Jeff Levine said. "What was that? Did you feel that? Was that gunshots? Should I call the police?"

Levine has captured illegal fireworks on his home security cameras for years.

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Recently, he's recognized the sounds of what he thinks are M-80s and M-1000s- powerful firecrackers exploding too close to home.

This year, Levine isn't anticipating any action from city leaders or law enforcement.

"I understand that with everything else that's going on," he admitted. "It's never been a high priority anyway, in a normal year. So, I wouldn't expect any attention to it this year at all."

"To top it all off, we've got drought conditions and people have been sheltering in place. So, we're very concerned that there's going to be this pent up demand to go out and blow stuff up," he shared.

Just this week, the City of San Jose launched its annual "Fed up with Fireworks" campaign. On Friday, the digital campaign begins with posts across social media.

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According to San Jose Fire Department's (SJFD) Public Information Manager, Erica Ray, there were 1,946 illegal fireworks reports filed online in 2019.

She said it's important to note, a large number weren't complete or didn't include enough information for the City to take enforcement actions.

"We cannot be everywhere at once. Obviously, San Jose is a very large area," she explained. "That's why we really rely on our residents to help be the eyes and ears."

New this year, Ray said SJFD is partnering with San Jose school districts to spread out campaign messaging.

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A press release by SJFD detailed, "The program components remain: Education & Outreach, Reporting and Enforcement. In this, the fourth year of the campaign, collaboration with partners has continued and outreach has expanded."

Campaign goals surround reducing injuries and fires, increasing the number of actionable reports, decreasing illegal firework activity, and educating residents.

Levine said, "Every year there's a campaign of one sort or another. They've actually run a spots in theaters and tried everything. Bottom line, it's going to take enforcement."

"It is an issue that we're all focused on," Ray shared. "We recognize not only the disturbance, but the danger. Fireworks can easily cause fires in neighborhoods that can quickly become out of control."

According to Ray, data from Fourth of July 2019 include:

  • 15 Fires: 7 vegetation, 1 Structure, 2 trash, 5 small outside fires
  • 75-percent increase in actionable reports from 2018 Fourth of July Reporting Period
  • Online reports not containing enough information for the City to take an action dropped by 5-percent
  • Enforcement actions: (In addition to online reporting PD made)
  • 2 Arrests;
  • 1 Field Citation
  • 7 Online Citations
  • Confiscated 300-lbs of Fireworks

Still, residents who have dedicated decades to the fight maintained serious enforcement is needed.

"I've done everything I can. For 25 years I've been doing this," resident Suzanne Morrone said. " They don't care, and they're not going to get anything done until they do care. It'll probably take someone's house getting burned down with somebody in it who dies."

ABC7 News reached out to the San Jose Police Department (SJPD), who directed us to SJFD.

We've also reached out to Mayor Sam Liccardo's office. He was not available to comment.

Councilman Raul Peralez provided an e-mail response to one of his residents, about the issue.

"As you can imagine we have been a bit busy lately, I've been receiving over 200 emails per day and I can't imagine what the Mayor is facing. My wife and I have heard the nightly fireworks as well and our Sheppard is finding all sorts of new places to hide in our house," the email read. "Considering the conversation we had this week I don't imagine the Chief will be suggesting any changes to his response protocol for fireworks. I will ask Mindy to follow up with you and City Staff to get a response."

Levine added, "I'm disappointed with the City, but I'm also disappointed with the fellow citizens that have no concern for anybody but themselves to blow stuff up."

Disturbing and dangerous, many also fear the impact of fireworks on animals and people with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Fines for illegal firework use are as follows:

  • $500 for a first violation
  • $700 for a second violation (within 18 months of the previous violation)
  • $1,000 for a third violation (within 18 months of the previous violation)

The sale of fireworks may result in a fine of up to $50,000 plus jail time, depending on quantity.