SANTA CLARA COUNTY, Calif. (KTVU) - A South Bay man is warning everyone on the dangers of illegal fireworks after part of his hand was amputated. He set off fireworks last July 4.
His message comes as Santa Clara County leaders said Thursday they will not tolerate illegal fireworks given the drought and fire danger.
Chris Ortiz misses not being able to write his own name, play the piano and work. His livelihood as a tattoo artist is gone.
"It's been pretty painful physically, mentally and financially," said Ortiz.
Last July 4, the 33-year-old bought fireworks online lighting them up for his Sunnyvale neighborhood. As he and his friend lit the last firework, he said the mortar type device blew up in his hand because of a faulty fuse.
"This portion of my thumb is missing and two fingers," said Ortiz.
His friend also lost part of his hand. Three surgeries and a year later, Ortiz is still recovering from that night.
"Every single one of these things is illegal in Santa Clara County, whether they are the safe and sane kind of fireworks we used as kids or aerial devices," said Santa Clara County Fire Department Chief Ken Kehmna.
Authorities in Santa Clara County are cracking down on fireworks and are planning to send out bomb teams on July 4. Santa Clara County also has a new ordinance that holds homeowners accountable when fireworks go off on their property. They can now be slapped with fines starting at $350.
"It seems like complete chaos and anarchy in terms of fireworks displays happening in backyards cul-de-sacs and neighborhood streets," said Santa Clara County Board Supervisor President Dave Cortese. "It's causing problems. We now have drought and fire problems."
"I don't think I'll play with fireworks again," said Ortiz.
Ortiz considers himself lucky. He said he could have ended up blind. The blast melted his contacts. He urges everyone to watch the professionals do it saying they're illegal for a reason.
"My hand is why. It's been a life changer," said Ortiz. "Ten minutes of having fun for a lifetime change that's really affected me so it's nothing worth it. It's definitely not worth it for me."
Ortiz will have his fourth surgery in September.
There are eight professional fireworks shows in Santa Clara County to watch them safely.