As more than a dozen charities erect fireworks booths around
Gilroy, city officials are sending out their annual warning to
residents: If it flies or explodes, don’t even think about lighting
that fuse this Fourth of July.
Gilroy – As more than a dozen charities erect fireworks booths around Gilroy, city officials are sending out their annual warning to residents: If it flies or explodes, don’t even think about lighting that fuse this Fourth of July.
“Safe and sane” is the concept that allows for the city’s marriage with the Gilroy Little League and 15 other charities that rely on the fireworks booths to raise valuable funds.
Gilroy is the only city in Santa Clara County that still allows fireworks sales for the nation’s birthday, and officials have taken steps in recent years to encourage sparklers and other “safe and sane” fireworks while cracking down on illegal varieties such as bottle rockets, Roman candles and M-80s.
“Anything that flies through the air is definitely illegal; anything that is a firecracker that you light on the ground and explodes is illegal. Anything you buy at one of the 16 booths is legal,” explained Jacqueline Bretschneider, the city’s fire marshal.
Those measures include fines reaching $750 for the use of illegal fireworks. The law allows police to fine a homeowner if illegal fireworks are set off on his or her property, even if the person who lit the fireworks is not caught. Last year, police and firefighters issued about three dozen citations.
Officials not only regulate the type of fireworks that can be used, but where you can use them. Safe and sane fireworks are prohibited along the edges of northwest Gilroy and Eagle Ridge, a gated community west of Santa Teresa Boulevard, because of their proximity to tinder-dry grasslands.
“Once we get off the street, there’s no way of getting water up there and there’s no trimming of trees or vegetation,” Bretschneider said. “If the fire gets there, it’s really a big problem for everybody.”
Each year, 16 vendors raise funds for various programs by selling fireworks in booths along First Street and other areas. The Gilroy Little League relied on its fireworks booth to raise funds for new bleachers at the city’s sports complex. Victory Outreach Church, in Gilroy, relies on its booth for programs that help youth and adults with alcohol and drug addictions. And the city’s Community Services Adaptive Recreation program, which will operate a booth in the Nob Hill Foods parking lot next to McDonald’s, uses the funds to sponsor events for mentally and physically handicapped people.
The fireworks booth helps the organization raise roughly $9,000 each year, according to Sandra Sammut, the city’s recreation supervisor.
“The fireworks are safe; it’s going to a good cause and the (kids) also get to benefit because they can bring the fireworks to their neighborhoods and share them with their friends and families,” Sammut said.
Public officials have resisted the temptation to ban all fireworks in Gilroy, despite fires and a car accident four years ago stemming from their use.
“I grew up with fireworks so not having them feels weird,” said Ryan Grissom, 35, an Eagle Ridge resident. “As long as they’re not selling M-80s and other crazy ones, I’m OK with it.”
Vendors will start selling fireworks at booths around the city at 9am Sunday, July 1. The sales will continue each day through July 4, between 9am and 10pm. “Safe and sane” fireworks purchased from vendors can be discharged until midnight July 4.