July 4 spirits flare

Fireworks safety * Always read directions *

GILROY
– Fireworks went on sale Tuesday at 16 booths in Gilroy – the
last bastion for legal sales in Santa Clara County.
Each year, the city issues permits for nonprofit organizations
to sell fireworks. From the Gavilan College Football Boosters on
First Street to the Gilroy Police Officers Association on Church
Street, it’s hard to miss the

freedom fireworks

booths around town.
GILROY – Fireworks went on sale Tuesday at 16 booths in Gilroy – the last bastion for legal sales in Santa Clara County.

Each year, the city issues permits for nonprofit organizations to sell fireworks. From the Gavilan College Football Boosters on First Street to the Gilroy Police Officers Association on Church Street, it’s hard to miss the “freedom fireworks” booths around town.

“I think it’s great because I know how hard it is to fund raise,” customer Valerie Boe said. “This is a great opportunity. We always have a block party and then the adults go watch the big fireworks. These are fun, they’re for the kids.” Fireworks sales are a major fund raiser for many nonprofit groups and require little effort to be coordinated. A wholesaler sets up the booths, provides the training to sell fireworks and gives customers safety tips. The organizations only need to purchase the fireworks and staff their booths to collect their profits – the difference between the fireworks’ wholesale value and retail price.

“It’s slow right now, but it’ll pick up,” said Mary Lyons, who worked on the first day of sales at the Pop Warner football booth on West Tenth Street. She was confident that sales would pick up later that afternoon. This fund raiser provides Pop Warner with more than half the money it needs in a year, she said.

Just because the sale of fireworks in Gilroy is legal doesn’t mean there aren’t restrictions. Only “safe and sane” are sold in Gilroy. They do not leave the ground or explode and are registered with the office of the state fire marshal. These can only be used within city limits on residents’ property.

Each booth must place signs clearly listing safety tips and the areas which the fire department has defined as hazardous.

Legal action can be taken against people who resell, transport or use fireworks purchased in Gilroy outside of city limits.

Hazardous fire areas include the Country Estates subdivision, Eagle Ridge subdivision, The Forest subdivision, Rancho Real Drive, area south from Welburn Avenue, lands on Hecker Pass Highway, Carriage Hills subdivision west of Rancho Hills Drive and the Mesa Ranch subdivision. The fire department has notified people in these areas that it is illegal to use fireworks or any kind.

The sale and use are restricted because fireworks are only allowed for the celebration of the Fourth of July, Deputy Fire Marshal Rodger Maggio said. Gilroy booths couldn’t open for business until 9 a.m. Tuesday. Fireworks can’t be used after midnight Friday.

While citizens are gearing up to celebrate Independence Day, firefighters are on extra alert. The fire department’s major concerns are the use of fireworks in hazardous areas and illegal fireworks in general. Some illegal devices including bottle rockets, firecrackers and mortar shells can cause serious injury and property damage.

“The fire and police departments will have patrols out for the sole purpose of getting illegal fireworks off the street,” Maggio said.

Any banned fireworks will be confiscated and the offenders could receive a misdemeanor citation. Use or possession of larger firecrackers – including M-80s – which are considered explosive devices, can lead to felony charges.

The fire department also is concerned about the weather because a combination of high temperatures and wind increases the risk of fire, but is taking necessary precautions. There will be extra engines out on patrol and extra officers on duty.

Maggio said the best way to stay safe with fireworks is to supervise children, follow directions and have a bucket of water and a hose nearby in case of an emergency.

“We’ve been setting off fireworks for years. We always have a bucket of water and have never had any problems,” Boe said.

To be on the safe side, the fire department sends literature about the safe use of fireworks, especially when people apply for block party permits.

Those people who don’t wish to use their own fireworks can head to the Gilroy High School baseball field for the city’s display at 9:15 p.m. on Friday.

But the risk is well worth it for parents like Jasper DelReal, whose son plays football for Pop Warner and who plans to purchase fireworks for his own family. “The best part is that the kids will get the money,” he said. But it’s also about having fun. “We have children, we have to (buy them),” he said.

The fireworks booths are open from around 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. Packages range from $10 to $200. Customers must be at least 18 years of age.

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