SAN JOSE (KPIX) — As the drought brings even drier conditions this year, the San Jose fire department as well as residents are concerned about the potential of illegal fireworks sparking a wildfire as we near the Fourth of July holiday.
“What we were seeing last year really wasn’t the safe and sane fireworks, we were seeing professional grade fireworks,” said San Jose Fire public information manager Erica Ray. “Our department was stretched beyond its limits, every fire station was out responding to fireworks-related calls.”
Ray said that last Independence Day, San Jose received more than 6,000 online reports of illegal fireworks — more than triple the number of online reports it had received the previous year.
This year, there is the same concern.
“Very obviously, there was a flood of illegal fireworks into the market in 2020,” Ray said. “There are companies selling those fireworks that probably stand to have a very high profit margin again this year.”
Fire officials wonder where people obtain the fireworks. A quick search on Craigslist in the Bay Area shows several illegal explosives up for sale, demonstrating how easy it is to buy or sell them.
Those are just the little guys. Last month, Oakland police confiscated a pickup truck full of fireworks.
“The fire department sees the tragedy of these fires, we see people lose their homes, we see people hurt and injured, property damaged,” Ray said.
“Well, seems like that’s a good target to go after then — is the people that are selling it,” said San Jose resident William Richards.
Richards as well as Amanda Nguyen live near Interstate 680, where a series of vegetation fires last month burned dangerously close to their homes.
“I put a respirator on because it was bad enough that I was a little worried if I didn’t put on a respirator I’d be coughing,” Richards said.
That blaze wasn’t caused by fireworks but Nguyen said she saw first-hand how quickly flames can burn drought-dried vegetation.
“That could be your home too,” Nguyen said. “That is another thing I’m concerned about. Will I lose the home I had and known? It’s kind of scary, it’s really scary.”
This year, the San Jose city council enacted a new “social host ordinance” which fines tenants and homeowners for fireworks set off on their properties.