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Fireworks - Local Ordinance and How to Report Illegal Activity

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The laws governing fireworks in Santa Clara are clear – fireworks are illegal. Yet, every Independence Day, the City’s Communications Center receives hundreds of calls related to illegal fireworks. 

Please do NOT set off fireworks – it’s inconsiderate to your neighbors, needlessly scares children and pets, raises anxiety levels for individuals with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, is inherently dangerous to property and bystanders and ties up emergency phone lines unnecessarily. It can also be costly. Fines may be issued and / or criminal prosecution may be sought when violations are discovered.

Reporting Illegal Fireworks

Independence Day is the highest call volume day in the Communications Center each year.

As a result, residents are asked to limit fireworks related calls to the Communications Center, except in the following circumstances:

• Injury, 9-1-1
• Fire, 9-1-1
• Property damage, 408-615-5580
• Knowledge of exact location of where fireworks are being set off in real-time, 408-615-5580

Please do not report noise complaints unless you can provide the exact location of the fireworks being set off.

In addition, do not report the use of fireworks or need for police, fire or medical response on social media. It is not monitored regularly.

Police and Fire Department Response

The Police and Fire Departments are conducting preventative roving patrols based on daily call activity.  While the Police and Fire Departments cannot respond to every fireworks related call, public safety personnel will prioritize our response to ensure the public’s safety. 

The boom and crackle of the firework happens in seconds and the sound can carry quite some distance. Catching someone in the act - possession of fireworks or launching illegal fireworks - is not an easy task!  Without knowing where the activity is occurring, Public Safety Dispatchers can only communicate it to public safety personnel as beat information. With a specific location, public safety personnel can respond to the designated location, look for expended fireworks, people standing around and/or someone willing to “point out” who set it off.

Santa Clara Municipal Code

Santa Clara Municipal Code section 15.60.280 states: “The possession, manufacture, storage, sale, handling, and use of fireworks, including those fireworks classified as Safe and Sane by the California State Fire Marshal, are prohibited.” This includes, but is not limited to, popular bottle rockets, roman candles, firecrackers and sparklers. 

Classification of Fireworks

Dangerous Fireworks 

The California Health and Safety Code defines dangerous fireworks as any firework containing any of the following:

  • Arsenic sulfide, arsenates or arsenites
  • Boron
  • Chlorates, except:
    • In colored smoke mixture in which an equal or greater amount of sodium bicarbonate is included
    • In caps and party poppers
    • In those small items (such as ground spinners) wherein the total powder content does not exceed 4 grams of which not greater than 15 percent (or 600 milligrams) is potassium, sodium, or barium chlorate
  • Gallates or Gallic acid
  • Magnesium (magnesium-aluminum alloys, called magnalium, are permitted)
  • Mercury salts
  • Phosphorous (red or white except that red phosphorus is permissible in caps and party poppers)
  • Picrates or picric acid
  • Thiocyanates
  • Titanium, except in particle size greater than 100-mesh
  • Zirconium
    • Firecrackers
    • Skyrockets and rockets, including all devices which employ any combustible or explosive material and which rise in the air during discharge
    • Roman candles, including all devices which discharge balls of fire into the air
    • Chasers, including all devices which dart or travel about the surface of the ground during discharge
    • Sparklers more than 10 inches in length or one-fourth of one inch in diameter
    • All fireworks designed and intended by the manufacturer to create the element of surprise upon the user. These items include, but are not limited to, auto-foolers, cigarette loads, exploding golf balls, and trick matches
    • Fireworks known as devil-on-the-walk, or any other firework which explodes through means of friction, unless otherwise classified by the State Fire Marshal pursuant to this part
    • Torpedoes of all kinds which explode on impact
    • Fireworks kits
    • Such other fireworks examined and tested by the State Fire Marshal and determined by him, with the advice of the State Board of Fire Services, to possess characteristics of design or construction which make such fireworks unsafe for use by any person not specially qualified or trained in the use of fireworks

Safe and Sane Fireworks

The law defines “Safe and Sane fireworks” as any that do not come within the definition of “dangerous fireworks.”

While California permits the sale and use of "Safe and Sane" fireworks, the City of Santa Clara has a local ordinance prohibiting the use of “Safe and Sane” fireworks. This includes, but is not limited to, bottle rockets, roman candles, firecrackers and sparklers. 

Party Poppers and Snap Caps

“Party Poppers” and “Snap Caps” are generally found in local stores this time of year and are classified as a “pyrotechnic device” in accordance with state fireworks laws and regulations. These novelty items make small popping sound and shoot out confetti or streamers and are not regulated as “Dangerous” or “Safe and Sane” fireworks.

It is legal to sell and use “Party Poppers” and “Snap Caps” in the City of Santa Clara.

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