Though San Bruno voters decisively approved the continued sale of "safe and sane" fireworks in the city last November, public safety officials still argue that they’re dangerous and unnecessary.
Nonprofits started selling "safe and sane" fireworks Wednesday in San Bruno and Pacifica, the only cities in the county that allow the sale and use of the Fourth of July staple. That same night, top brass from South San Francisco Police and Fire presented a letter to their City Council — for the sixth year in a row — asking their fireworks-friendly neighbors to halt the sales.
South San Francisco Police Chief Mark Raffaelli said his officers didn’t hand out any citations last year for using the safe and sane fireworks, but confiscated some.
"I think it’s totally irresponsible for those cities to sell them," Raffaelli said, noting that groups in the cities could find ways to raise money that don’t strain city resources.
San Bruno and Pacifica receive fees from vendors for police, fire and clean-up, but neighboring cities don’t get to recoup the costs of extra enforcement, South San Francisco Fire Chief Philip White said.
Every year, North County Fire Authority Deputy Chief/Fire Marshal Steve Brandvold said his department makes a strong case for banning fireworks in Pacifica, but with no success.
"It’s ultimately up to the City Council, and they’ve elected to keep fireworks in place," Brandvold said.
Despite safety concerns, two-thirds of San Bruno voters supported the continued use of fireworks in a ballot measure last year. San Bruno City Manager Connie Jackson said there were 17 vendors this year selling fireworks, many of them stationed in the parking lot of the Shops at Tanforan.
Bob George, chair of the city’s chapter of the Rotary Club, said it’s the group’s only real fundraiser and comprises much of their annual budget. The Rotary grossed $55,000 two years ago, netting approximately half that, and grossed $44,000 last year, a decrease George attributes in part to construction at the mall.
Vendors pay a $750 permit fee, and with the additional percentage of their proceeds that go toward extra enforcement on the holiday, the city got $62,000 back last year, Jackson said.
Pacifica City Manager Joe Tanner said his city upped the charge for illegal fireworks from an infraction to a misdemeanor, which could run $500 or six months in jail. The city charges a nine percent surcharge on every purchase and the vendors, who include little league teams and the Pacifica Historical Society, are responsible for cleaning up the beaches on July 5th.
"We’ve got our eyes out for all the bad stuff," Tanner said.