San Mateo County approves $500 fine for watching illegal fireworks

People who attend illegal fireworks shows in San Mateo County would find themselves facing a fine, in addition to those who set off the fireworks, following a vote Tuesday by the county's Board of Supervisors.

The board amended the county's existing fireworks ordinance to make spectators of illegal fireworks subject to a fine of $500. Spectators are defined as anyone within 200 feet of an illegal fireworks discharge who is there to observe them. Repeat violators within 12 months of a prior citation would be fined $1,000.

The revised fireworks ordinance would also hold parents or guardians liable for the illegal fireworks set off by minors.

"Sheriff (Christina) Corpus and I got together and began to have discussions about how we could work together to strengthen our fireworks ordinance, perhaps give it more teeth," said Supervisor Warren Slocum, who introduced the amendments. "And that's exactly what we did."

Violators will also be responsible for the cost of having law enforcement and firefighters respond to illegal firework events.

Fines will be increased to $2,000 for those possessing or setting off fireworks within 500 feet of a daycare, school, long-term care facility or pet rescue shelter, or anywhere where alcohol is being consumed.

SEE ALSO: Illegal fireworks spark fires across Bay Area

The board last revised its fireworks regulations in 2021, the first time it had done so in 35 years. All fireworks, including those that are labeled "safe," are illegal to have, sell or use without a permit in unincorporated parts of the county.

Individual cities within the county have their own ordinances banning and penalizing the use and possession of fireworks.

Slocum and Corpus compared some modern fireworks to small bombs rather than simple items like sparklers, with Corpus calling the amendments "long overdue."


Illegal fireworks in Antioch injure woman's eye

A small fire sparked by illegal fireworks threatened a home in Antioch. It was just one of dozens that Contra Costa County crews responded to over the weekend. Nei Trotter said she was injured in one of those fires.

"There's no regard for safety by these individuals that are igniting these fireworks," Corpus said to the board. "It's dangerous to not only our community members but also to our deputies that are trying to keep our community safe."

Corpus said most of the fireworks that are entering the county come from out of state or out of the country, often bought online.

The sheriff's office intends to form a task force aimed at investigating fireworks suppliers, Corpus said.

The board approved the amendments by a 4-1 vote, with Supervisor Noelia Corzo voting against the ordinance. The new penalties will go into effect 30 days after a second, ratifying vote on the ordinance.