Each year we hear and see an increase in fireworks throughout our community. This can be distressing to so many people and their pets. These bombs in the sky can trigger unthinkable feelings in people who suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD), anxiety or other sensitivities that individuals may face. I too sit on my couch and jump as these blasts rock our city here in the Pajaro Valley. When I had my dogs, I would have to comfort them because of the fear they felt during these times. It was awful to see the panic on their faces as these rockets glared across the skies of our community. The impact of illegal fireworks can be long-lasting and affect the way we feel, our moods, and our livelihoods altogether.
This issue isn’t new. Illegal fireworks have been going on for years. Whenever some people feel like celebrating, they shoot these fire rockets into the air. Yes, many of us agree they are beautiful under a controlled setting. However, irresponsibly setting them off throughout the community diminishes that beauty really fast. We are faced with so many consequences with illegal fireworks beyond the way they make some of us feel in the moment. People can be physically hurt and they can start fires. We are currently experiencing an extremely dry year. I am afraid some of these fireworks set off illegally and not under a controlled environment, where fire crews are on location, will result in massive fires. Do we not remember the color of our sky and the smell of our air last year because of all the fires? We were stuck in isolation because of Covid-19 and then were forced to shelter further because of the unhealthy air quality. This difficult time of our life was further impacted because of the fires. We understand what can happen if an illegal firework hits some dry grass or a rooftop of a building. Yet, we have some people who only care about the immediate moment of gratification when setting off a firework.
What we are currently hearing all around us are illegal fireworks. Our officers have the very difficult task of catching the violators in the act of igniting them. This almost impossible task is made further difficult by our law enforcement officers having to prioritize which calls are more important than others. We all know our communities are faced with many issues, ranging from crime to traffic and neighborhood disturbances. However, when the community feels not enough is being done to address an issue, like fireworks, people will blame the police, fire and city and county governments for not doing enough. The city of Watsonville implemented the 4th of July event, Fire in the Sky, a few years back. This was done in hopes to help detour people from buying their own illegal fireworks and setting them off. Though it is a spectacular community event, which many hope will remain a community tradition, it clearly has not had a huge impact on the illegal fireworks in our community.
Many of us want the illegal use of fireworks to end. We look to our local government for solutions. It is, in my opinion, time we start to implement stricter policies to address the already illegal act of setting off fireworks into our sky. Currently, in Sacramento, Modesto, Tracy and other cities, landlords, owners or renters are fined if there is evidence of illegal firework debris on their property. This way you don’t have to catch the person in the act of setting off the fireworks. Debris of an illegal firework or a neighbor’s video will meet the necessary proof to cite someone. This year we will be adding this same community nuisance approach to fine and cite people who are the owner or renter of the property where the fireworks originated. Community members will be able to call in and give the exact location or share the recording of illegal fireworks with authorities. Either way, it will be sufficient enough for a fine.
Please call our non-emergency number to report firework violations 831-471-1170. We will also increase our education efforts by distributing electric signs across our city stating the $1,000 fine for such violations. At the end of the day, if it is the goal for us to truly have a successful ordinance, it will take all of us to step up and be part of the solution. I want these rockets going off at all times of the day throughout the year to end as well. Just like you, I am tired of hearing them. I am looking forward to working with our city to figure out further options. Personally, as the mayor, I do not have the power to unilaterally make decisions on how our local ordinance or enforcement will work. It will take the entire council and the city staff to implement further changes. I feel hopeful if we work together and think of actual solutions that will work, we will be able to find some peace back in our skies.
Mayor’s Update is a recurring column from Watsonville’s mayor, Jimmy Dutra. His views are his own and not necessarily those of the Pajaronian. Contact Dutra at [email protected]