As Fourth of July nears, Bay Area fire departments are cracking down on illegal fireworks.
They are outlawed in many parts of the region and with another drought underway – the fines for using them have rocketed.
In Vallejo Monday night, 10 homes were damaged and a firefighter was injured and investigators say fireworks are to blame.
In the South Bay, the San Jose Alviso neighborhood was full of them last year and the issue spreads across the region.
“There are people right on the adjacent street setting off high flying mortars in the middle of the night,” said Steven Spivak of San Jose. “If sparks were to hit those trees, they would go off like bombs because of the sap.”
Spivak said it’s gotten out of control. He’s been working with other neighborhood organizations, pushing the city to crack down.
“If sparks were to hit those trees, they would go off like bombs because of the sap,” said Spivak.
San Jose is stepping up enforcement. Its online tool to report illegal fireworks was upgraded.
Police will have extra officers devoted to fireworks calls.
And new this year, those caught lighting them off or those homeowners hosting a party launching fireworks – can get fined $1,000 for the first offense and $2,000 for the second time and so on. Plus the cost of the emergency response all because the fire danger is so high.
“If we see a repeat of last year, it’s just going to … our fire department was stretched beyond its limits in 2020 by the amount of calls we were receiving and fireworks related fires,” said Erica Ray, San Jose Fire Department Information Manager.
Agencies are cracking down all over.
Contra Costa County fire investigators seized illegal fireworks in San Pablo, Pittsburg, and Antioch over the past two weeks.
In San jose, 30 fireworks caused fires happened around July 4 in 2020. And though it received 6,500 fireworks complaints, most of the reports were incomplete – and unenforceable.
They hope the new process of reporting homeowners will lead to more enforcement.