Pacifica, CA

Fireworks cause fireworks among residents in Pacifica, CA

Kristen Philipkoski

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(Photo by Zuza Gałczyńska on Unsplash)

On February 5 at 5:39 p.m. I received an “Urgent Notice!” via text informing me that the Pacifica City Council would soon make a decision about fireworks in my hometown of Pacifica, California, that “will make our city’s illegal fireworks problem even worse!”

When I clicked through the link provided, I discovered that a group called Save Pacifica Fireworks is concerned that on Monday, February 8, the city council might move to ban the sale and use of “state-approved” fireworks in Pacifica.

The topic of fireworks is a hot button issue in this town, where we have a “safe and sane” regulation that makes certain fireworks legal and those determined to be unsafe and presumably insane are not. The fireworks issue has been discussed repeatedly by the city council and residents, and various legislation and iterations thereof have been drafted and approved. But the end result, based on what I have observed as a Pacifica resident for the past decade, is that illegal fireworks are part of the city’s identity. Pacifica has a reputation as the place for fireworks every 4th of July, Halloween, random football game, and Tuesday night if someone’s in a firecracker mood.

Many pet owners in Pacifica hate the fireworks tradition because the loud noises terrorize their animals. People with PTSD and allergies feel similarly. And residents concerned about California’s increasing fire danger fear a fire disaster in Pacifica caused by fireworks is only a matter of time.

Here’s the rub: “Safe and sane” fireworks kiosks planted around town every late June and July raise more than $250,000 for schools and various non-profit organizations including Terra Nova High School football, the Pacifica Moose Lodge, Pacifica girls softball and many more.

From the Save Pacifica Fireworks site:

What will a ban cost the City of Pacifica?
Loss of surcharge revenue (over $41,000 in 2020) to underwrite the $35,000 in overtime costs for police, fire and public works.
Absent the nonprofit groups providing the clean-up service on Pacifica’s beaches, the City of Pacifica would have to pay upwards of $6,000+ under the rules dictated by AB 5 and would have to provide workers’ comp insurance and other benefits to locals cleaning up the beaches.
Up to $3,200 to replace services donated by TNT Fireworks.
A loss in excess of $5,100 in sales tax.
Replacement funding for the nonprofit organizations of $250,000.

The effort to keep safe and sane fireworks legal is spearheaded by Terra Nova High School Football coach Jason Piccolotti, Terra Nova Athletic Boosters board president Nathan Uter, Pacifica Tiger Sharks Pop Warner Football board president Mike Biancalana, and Jeanne Matysiak of American Legion Post #238.

Unsurprisingly, the topic quickly exploded onto the Next-door message boards shortly after the mass text. Some commenters reminded community members of California’s recent history with fire devastation, with the image below to illustrate her point.

“Seems sooooo long ago, right? It’s been a long year. And after the fires many people in Pacifica commented on ND about insurance being jacked up or cancelled. Also concerns about escape routes.”

Others talked about their love of tradition:

“As a family who loves to celebrate America’s birthday at home every year, it would be a hard reality if our beloved safe and sane fireworks were put to an end. We love going to the different firework booths and supporting the different boosters of our local community—knowing that the money we spent on our sparklers and safe/legal fireworks will not only put smiles on our kids faces but others of our city our city as well. i would love to keep this tradition while always practicing safety first.”

Some commenters lamented that outsiders are trying to change things again:

"Strangely enough it seems like anyone who moves into Pacifica wants to change the way the town has always been. please stop. just move back to Belmont or wherever. No one is looking to conform to your needs."

My first thought upon receiving this supposedly urgent text was not to wax nostalgic about Pacifica’s fireworks tradition nor to worry about fire safety but to wonder if the issue really warranted an unsolicited mass text?

My husband received the same text, and he protects his private information even more closely than I do—he has deleted his Facebook, Instagram and all other social media accounts except for his beloved Reddit. His cell phone number has also been registered with the National Do Not Call Registry since 2003, so I’m not sure if it was actually OK for Save Pacifica Fireworks to send him an unsolicited text message (my number was not registered with Do Not Call but now it is).

I responded to the text asking how they got my information but I did not receive a response.

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We will keep you posted on the outcome of the city council meeting on Monday.

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I'm a veteran writer and editor and founder of Mean Magazine and The Mean Podcast for GenX women. I write about everything from fashion to science and everything in between. I’ve written for Racked, Refinery 29, 7x7, SF Chronicle, Wired, Gizmodo and many others.

Pacifica, CA
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