Tom Butt
  E-Mail Forum – 2021  
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  Help Reduce Fireworks in Richmond
May 9, 2021

More than two months before July 4, nightly, and sometimes daily, fireworks began to rock Richmond neighborhoods, once again scaring pets, waking sleeping people and upsetting awake people, causing some to believe the noise was gunfire and igniting a firestorm of protests and questions on social media. In this year of drought superimposed on global warming, the danger of fire resulting from fireworks is perhaps the highest we have ever seen.

With the trend towards ever more powerful fireworks, the likelihood of serious injury is also rising.

Help Reduce Fireworks in Richmond

Figure 1 - Typical hand injury from fireworks

Richmond is not alone in this trend, but that doesn’t mean we are helpless to respond. The Police Department has told us that it is difficult for them to enforce the law against using fireworks unless they actually witness a person possessing or setting off fireworks.

In 2011, I discovered that the City of Richmond had, unlike most of the rest of Contra Costa County, failed to adopt an ordinance prohibiting all fireworks. I introduced an ordinance correcting that oversight that became Chapter 11.05 of the Richmond Municipal Code. It was adopted unanimously by the City Council and is copied below. No fireworks are legal in Richmond.

Chapter 11.05 - FIREWORKS

11.05.010 - Definitions.

For the purpose of this chapter, the following words and phrases shall have the meanings ascribed to them in this section unless the context specifically indicates otherwise:

      1. "Dangerous fireworks." Those fireworks listed and defined in California Health and Safety Code Sections 12505 and 12561 and the relevant sections of Title 19 of the California Code of Regulations, as the same may be amended from time to time.
      2. "Exempt fireworks." Any special item containing pyrotechnics compositions which the State Fire Marshal, with the advise of the State Fire Advisory Board, has investigated and determined to be limited to industrial, commercial or agricultural use, or religious ceremonies when authorized by a permit granted by the authority having jurisdiction.
      3. "Fireworks." Any device containing chemical elements and chemical compounds capable of burning independently of the oxygen of the atmosphere and producing audible, visual, mechanical or thermal effects which are useful as pyrotechnic devices or for entertainment. These items include, but are not limited to, devices designated by the manufacturer as fireworks, torpedoes, skyrockets, roman candles, rocket, Daygo bombs, M-80s, sparklers, party poppers, paper caps, chasers, fountains, smoke sparks, aerial bombs, fireworks kits and firecrackers. This term includes both "dangerous fireworks" and "safe and sane" fireworks.
      4. "Safe and sane fireworks" or "State-approved fireworks." Any fireworks that do not come within the definition of "dangerous fireworks" or "exempt fireworks."

(Ord. No. 21-11 N.S., § 1, 9-20-2011)

11.05.020 - Possession, use or sale of fireworks prohibited.

      1. It is unlawful and a misdemeanor for any person or entity to possess, sell, give away, store, use, display, display for sale, explode, ignite or discharge any fireworks within the City limits except by valid permit as "exempt fireworks" or by a valid special event permit for a public event authorized by the City. Any special event permit or exempt fireworks permit is not transferable and shall only be valid for the date of the specific event.
      2. In addition to criminal action, any person or entity who possesses, sells, gives away, stores, uses, displays, displays for sale, explodes, ignites or discharges any fireworks in violation of this chapter is subject to Administrative Citations as set forth in Chapter 2.62.

(Ord. No. 21-11 N.S., § 1, 9-20-2011)

11.05.030 - Seizure of fireworks.

Any peace officer, fire marshal or the Richmond Fire Chief or his or her designee, may seize, take, remove or cause to be removed any fireworks possessed, used, stored or displayed in violation of this chapter.

(Ord. No. 21-11 N.S., § 1, 9-20-2011)

What can we do about fireworks? Whether Richmond is successful in reducing the level of fireworks over the next two months is largely in the hands of it residents. Here is what you can do:

  1. If you see or hear fireworks and can identify the location, call the police using 9-1-1. Give the dispatcher the exact location, including an address, if you know it. It is a misdemeanor to possess or set off fireworks. A misdemeanor is punishable by a fine up to $1,000 or up to six months in jail. Even a few arrests and convictions, particularly in the early part of the fireworks season. can be a powerful deterrent.
  2. The Mayor’s Office is offering a $2,500 reward to anyone who reports a fireworks violation that leads to arrest and conviction.
  3. If your neighbors have a history of setting off fireworks, ask them nicely to consider foregoing it this year.
  4. Spread this information widely using social media and community meetings.