The Gilroy City Council on Monday voted 5-1 to tighten up the language in the city’s illegal fireworks ordinance in the hopes of discouraging scofflaws on the Fourth of July and beyond.

In April 2022, the council agreed to update the ordinance to make property owners liable for the illegal use of fireworks.

The first violation results in a $1,000 fine, with a $2,000 fine for every violation thereafter, according to the ordinance.

However, city officials determined that the ordinance could be more effective if it not only included property owners, but those who are considered the “host” of the gathering.

The definition of “host” was broadened under the update, which now includes “any occupant of any private residential or nonresidential real property in the city who hosts, allows, organizes, supervises, officiates, conducts or accepts responsibility” for a gathering where fireworks are lit.

Councilmember Dion Bracco, who voted against the ordinance, questioned why police officers who observe people lighting up illegal fireworks couldn’t just cite them on the spot, rather than going to the property owner.

Deputy Fire Marshal Jonathan Crick said that while that does happen, oftentimes the officers find themselves in a “sketchy situation,” where they are surrounded by large groups of intoxicated people “who may not like badges.”

“It’s a safety situation,” he said. “We have to consider safety and we don’t want to escalate the situation over fireworks.”

“You’re saying the same officers that go to domestic disputes, fights and everything else are afraid of the citizens of Gilroy on the Fourth of July?” Bracco responded.

City Administrator Jimmy Forbis said it’s preferable to keep the citations at the administrative level, where the accused have the opportunity to state their case.

“I don’t think [the officers] are scared of anybody, I just think they’re being smart,” he said. “I would not want a fireworks citation to escalate into something much more.”

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Erik Chalhoub joined Weeklys as an editor in 2019. Prior to his current position, Chalhoub worked at The Pajaronian in Watsonville for seven years, serving as managing editor from 2014-2019.


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