About a month ahead of July 4 celebrations across the country, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday voted to adopt an ordinance that holds property owners responsible for the illegal use of fireworks on their properties if they know that cherry bombs and Chinese firecrackers are being set off.
This “social host” law, similar to when parents are held accountable for underage drinking at parties even if they are not at home, has been considered since at least August 2014 and was spearheaded by Supervisor Dave Cortese. The vote passed 4-1, with Supervisor Joe Simitian being the lone no vote. His concern was over the fairness of holding a property owner responsible if they were unaware of the situation.
The law now gives the county power to fine property owners who shoot off fireworks or let others do so. First time offenders would be hit with a $350 citation, $700 for the second and $1,000 for the third.
Only 15 cities in the Bay Area and Santa Cruz County allow the sale and use of state-approved "safe and sane" unless a permit is issued by the county fire marshal. Cortese's ordinance applies to those sanctioned fireworks, too.
Since 1978, Santa Clara County has banned the sale, possession, and use of “safe and sane” fireworks in the unincorporated areas of the county. Every city in the county except for Gilroy has passed the same prohibition.
The crackdown is aimed to prevent injuries. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, 65 percent of fireworks-related injuries reported in 2013 happened on or around Independence Day and resulted in a daily average of 240 trips to emergency rooms across the United States. That included eight deaths.
For anyone who does want to celebrate the nation's birthday in the South Bay with big fanfare, don't fret. Public fireworks events are being held at places such as Discovery Meadow near the Children's Discovery Museum downtown, Almaden Park and at Municipal Stadium in San Jose after the San Jose Giants game.