Fire Safe Fourth

Fire Safe Fourth

Fireworks Are Illegal in Palo Alto

All types of fireworks, even those labeled "safe and sane," are illegal in Palo Alto, and most of Santa Clara County, including large bottle rockets, Roman candles, firecrackers, and even sparklers.

What's New

  • Joint Council Meeting to Discuss Illegal Fireworks, Monday, June 29
    • Palo Alto will contribute to the discussion at a joint City Council Meeting between East Palo Alto and Menlo Park.
    • More details, including how to watch and participate, here.

Police Response

We hear the illegal fireworks and we have heard from the community as well. We are here to help. Give 24-hour non-emergency dispatch center a call at 650-329-2413 and we’ll investigate. We want everyone to have a Fire Safe Fourth!

While it is most helpful to receive reports where our residents can see the fireworks to report an actual or suspected location, we fully realize that is not possible during the overnight hours when our residents are sleeping and being awakened by this noise. We encourage people to call us when they hear the fireworks anyway, as it may help us understand generally where they are occurring.

Our dispatchers are constantly monitoring radio traffic in adjoining cities, and are able to hear when the East Palo Alto Police Department or Menlo Park Police Department are working a fireworks or gunshots call in their jurisdiction. In those situations, the dispatchers try to inform the caller that the noise is coming from a neighboring city and that officers from that city’s police department are responding to investigate. If they do not hear a neighboring city responding to a call, or if there receive other information from the caller that indicates the noise is originating in our jurisdiction, they type up a formal call for service and send PAPD officers to investigate right away.

With that said, there are a number of challenges to enforcement of fireworks laws. In order to make an arrest or to issue a citation, an officer needs to be able to witness the violation or otherwise catch those responsible in possession of fireworks, or alternately, have a witness who can identify the suspect be willing to sign a private person’s arrest. When we have very few witnesses overnight (other than aural “witnesses”), and considering our officers have to be in the right place at exactly the right time to witness a violation themselves, enforcement is difficult. Our partners in East Palo Alto and other jurisdictions are diligently patrolling their neighborhoods too and responding to these calls themselves, but they have the same challenges with enforcement that we do.

As NBC Bay Area, SFist, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, CNN, and countless others have reported, this increase in illegal fireworks lately has become a nationwide issue. There are many reasons being circulated, but the fact is that fireworks are dangerous and illegal.

Fire Safety

Fireworks are responsible for thousands of fires and injuries each year. Each July 4th, thousands of people, most often children and teens, are injured while using consumer fireworks. Despite the dangers of fireworks, few people understand the associated risks - devastating burns, other injuries, fires, and even death.

Fact: Did you know that sparklers burn at about 2,000 degrees? Sparklers alone account for more than 25% of emergency room visits for fireworks injuries. Sparklers are not so harmless!

Hand Over Fireworks at a Fire Station

Fireworks of all kinds can be surrendered at any station of the Palo Alto Fire Department:

  • Fire Station #1 - 301 Alma Street
  • Fire Station #2 - 2675 Hanover Street
  • Fire Station #3 - 799 Embarcadero Road
  • Fire Station #4 - 3600 Middlefield Road
  • Fire Station #5 - 600 Arastradero Road
  • Fire Station #6 - 711 Serra Street

Fact: Fireworks started an estimated 19,500 fires in 2018, including 1,900 structure fires, 500 vehicle fires, and 17,100 outside and other fires. These fires caused five deaths, 46 civilian injuries, and $105 million in direct property damage. [Source: National Fire Protection Association]

Emergency Preparedness

For over 10 years, Palo Alto's Office of Emergency Services has lead a multi-agency Safety Watch on the 4th of July as a pre-plan for a major fire, terror attack, and other potential hazards. East Palo Alto, Menlo Park, the Menlo Park Fire District, and many other regional partners are a part of this operation, but due to staffing and other constraints, it has little to do with fireworks complaints outside of the wildland urban interface. To report illegal fireworks, give the 24-hour non-emergency dispatch center a call at 650-329-2413.

Leave It to the Professionals

With many professional fireworks shows being canceled this year, it is important to know that fireworks are not safe in the hands of consumers. Fireworks cause thousands of injuries and fires each year. For your safety and the safety of others, it’s best to leave fireworks to the professionals.

Fire Safe Fourth during COVID Era

With many fireworks shows cancelled and the need to prevent the spread of COVID-19, Fourth of July celebrations will look a little different this year, as will all holidays. Here are some tips and resources to help you and your family have a Fire Safe Fourth!