SAN JOSE (CBS SF) — Ringing in the New Year with illegal fireworks and gunfire – it’s happened in cities across the Bay Area, and Thursday night there’s new concern about those dangers with everyone at home under a shelter-in-place order.
Neighborhoods that are typically quiet can sound like war zones on New Year’s Eve and the 4th of July, say some people who live in San Jose.
Jeff Levine lives is the Roosevelt Park neighborhood and says he’s constantly catching illegal fireworks on surveillance cameras at his house. He says New Year’s Eve is one of the worst holidays for illegal fireworks.
“Four, five, six hours non-stop. Your house shaking, windows rattling,” says Levine.
He worries this year could be worse than most because of the continued shelter in place orders.
“We’ve been locked down for almost a year, 9 months. This could be like one big blow out. One chance for people to go out and let off steam,” says Levine.
This past 4th of July, San Jose officials say they received a record 6,000 complaints about illegal fireworks. In anticipation of New Year’s Eve, the city doubled the fine for anyone caught lighting off fireworks – up to $1,000 for the first offense.
“These are not the safe and sane fireworks. These are professional grade aerial rockets and are very dangerous,” says Levine.
But San Jose isn’t the only city dealing with illegal fireworks. Oakland has struggled with the issue for years.
“On New Year’s Eve, we have a lot of illegal fireworks. Everyone has seen that. It’s quite a spectacle every year,” says Oakland Fire Department Assistant Chief Robert Lipp.
In addition to the concerns about fires starting and people getting hurt by illegal fireworks, the bigger safety risk is gunfire as people shoot bullets into the air at midnight.
“They come down. They come down somewhere and it is not uncommon to have them come down and strike people,” says Assistant Chief Lipp.
With emergency resources and hospitals across the Bay Area already strained due to COVID patients, firefighters are practically begging people to stop the fireworks and gunfire.