San Jose residents say fireworks fines are unjust

- Residents in a South San Jose neighborhood are fuming after receiving costly citations for setting off illegal fireworks. However, they say they didn't do it and there’s no real proof.

Amy Guzeles said she hasn't touched fireworks in 30 years so you can imagine her shock when she got a notice in the mail. It wasn’t junk mail but a citation from the City of San Jose for $500 for lighting illegal fireworks on June 12, the night the Warriors won the championship.

“I couldn't believe it,” said Guzeles. “I don't follow basketball. I knew it was happening. I was not outside. Nobody in my family was outside that night. I was working at home.”

Guzeles feels worse for her neighbors. They were slapped with two fireworks citations, one for $500 for June 7, then another one for $700 for July 4.

“I feel so sad,” said Sally Phan of San Jose. “I feel why is there no evidence but they just sent out a citation without evidence.”

“We have a legal standing for the way we issue our citations and our city staff followed the protocols,” said City of San Jose Spokeswoman Cheryl Wessling.

A spokeswoman for the city of San Jose says, other than videos or photos for proof, if more than one witness complains about an address, the resident can get cited.

Since late May, the city received more than 1,000 online complaints issuing 160 warning letters and 45 citations.

“Mistakes can be made,” said San Jose City Councilmember Raul Peralez. “I can't say if this was the case in this instance or not but as a former San Jose police officer, citations aren't given out without good cause.”

Calls to the fire deputy chief were not returned. Perelez said citations, including parking tickets, are given all the time without video evidence.

The residents plan to fight it saying it's unfair. They must first pay the fine, then attend a hearing where their accusers must also attend.

“It just seems like a backwards way of doing it,” said Guzeles. “They are assuming we are guilty and we have to prove we are innocent.”

City leaders plan to take a closer look at the illegal fireworks program and its reporting tool at a public safety committee meeting on August 17, where they'll get a full report from the San Jose Fire Department.

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