Tuesday: Supervisors to consider flamethrower ban


Flamethrowers are an uncommon possession, and soon they may be illegal in parts of San Mateo County.

At its meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 4, the county Board of Supervisors will consider an ordinance that would prohibit the use, ownership, sale, trade, transfer and distribution of flamethrowers anywhere in the unincorporated areas of the county.

The sponsors of the ordinance are supervisors Don Horsley and Warren Slocum. The board meeting gets underway at 9 a.m. in the board's chambers at 400 County Center in Redwood City. Click here for the board's agenda and here for the draft ordinance.

The ordinance would not apply to firefighting agency employees using a flamethrower in the line of duty, or to residents with permits to own flamethrowers.

In February The Boring Company, a California firm founded by Elon Musk, the chief executive at Tesla and Space X, announced plans to sell 20,000 automatic-rifle-like devices that shoot flames a distance of several feet. The devices sold out in five days, according to a February CNBC story.

The draft ordinance defines a flamethrower as a portable device "designed or intended to emit, or capable of emitting or propelling, fire or a burning stream of combustible or flammable liquid" a distance of 22 inches or more.

The law would apply in the unincorporated communities in the county, including Ladera, Los Trancos Woods, North Fair Oaks and Stanford Weekend Acres.

Violations would result in fines: $100 for the first violation, $200 for the second and $500 for subsequent incidents within one year, the draft ordinance says.

If supervisors vote to approve the ordinance on Tuesday, they would need to approve it a second time, which is usually done at the next board meeting. The ordinance would become law 30 days later.


Sign up for Almanac Express to get news updates. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

— Dave Boyce

What is community worth to you?
Support local journalism.


6 people like this
Posted by Brian
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Sep 2, 2018 at 12:31 pm

Brian is a registered user.

Another stupid move that is a knee jerk reaction to something that gets a little press. go to Amazon and search for "Flamethrower" and you will find many, they are used to burn weeds but they are also used for roofing to melt the tar on the roof cover. The one the people were using on the roof next door pushed a flame further than the one from the Boring company. I guess you will ban those as well? Doesn't the board of supervisors have anything better to do or at least a little common sense?

12 people like this
Posted by wot a great guy!
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Sep 2, 2018 at 12:54 pm

Awesome post, Brian. With all your knowledge, passion, common sense and research already performed, you'll be participating in the meeting at 9am, obviously.

Thank you for your service to our community - it's a please to read of an anonymous poster who WALKS the walk!

Like this comment
Posted by Nanny County
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Sep 2, 2018 at 1:13 pm


I agree with you. How much time did our legislators spend creating policy to further restrict our freedoms? If this is such a big issue, why didn't the State legislature outlaw them?

This is a case of progressive politicians enacting rules to show they are busy. These policies resonate with the advocates of the nanny-state. Thank goodness we have the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors to protect us from the flamethrowers. I was having trouble sleeping knowing they were such a threat to our welfare.

@Supervisors - perhaps you could take up legislation to do something meaningful such as reducing traffic congestion. Perhaps a few thousand more high density housing units where the occupants would be banned from owning vehicles?

4 people like this
Posted by wot a great guy!
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Sep 2, 2018 at 1:23 pm

Wait - Nanny wants folks to possess FLAMETHROWERS?

3 people like this
Posted by Yet More Of The Same Nonsense
a resident of another community
on Sep 2, 2018 at 2:21 pm

Somehow, you just knew the fringe libertarian element of these boards would jump the shark.

Using a flamethrower to do gardening? Uh...yeah. Not.

5 people like this
Posted by wot a great guy!
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Sep 2, 2018 at 2:24 pm

I stand corrected, having done some research on the intertoobs since my last post:

'The Only Thing That Stops A Bad Guy With A Flamethrower Is A Good Guy With A Flamethrower'

5 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 2, 2018 at 7:32 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

"it's a please to read of an anonymous poster who WALKS the walk!"

Says the anonymous poster. Hypocrite much?

12 people like this
Posted by Match Thrower
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 3, 2018 at 5:59 am

Sounds like I'm still in business. Cool.

Seriously, I think some laws are enacted as "Just in case some idiots get involved"
We have no alcohol rules in our parks, but well behaved adults are always seen sipping beer or wine and it goes on without any police issue. If "Some idiots" show up and decide to get rowdy, they are immediately put down by the police with the aid of the law being on the books.

I could see the same enforcement pattern here. Nobody is going to care about the roofer warming tar, but if some idiot shows up in a park and starts blasting fire into the sky (or whatever), the police can shut it down with a law on the books. It'll be complaint driven I would guess, probably won't involve a flame thrower task force or crackdown.

Like this comment
Posted by whatever
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 3, 2018 at 6:18 pm

And don't forget those flame thrower guitars.

Web Link

4 people like this
Posted by Brian
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Sep 4, 2018 at 9:50 am

Brian is a registered user.

First off, not sure if you can read it but I am a registered user and not hiding behind a silly name. Second of all what they are talking of banning are not really flame throwers. These are propane torches that can send a gas generated flame about 2 feet, the same as gardening torches and the torches used by roofers. Like I said go to Amazon and look them up. Musk released this as a gimmick and now our elected officials are falling right into it with this knee jerk reaction. Real flame throwers, which eject a liquid fueled flame many yards (50 feet?) that you see in movies and are used by the military are already illegal in the state of California making this this legislation is an unnecessary waste of time and money.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Stay informed

Get daily headlines sent straight to your inbox.

Contemporary Indian restaurant, Ettan, headed to Palo Alto
By Elena Kadvany | 5 comments | 6,288 views

Good News: The New Menlo Park Rail Subcommittee Hits A Home Run
By Dana Hendrickson | 12 comments | 1,754 views

Premarital and Couples: Tips for Hearing (Listening) and Being Known
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 1,517 views

Two degrees can do all that?
By Sherry Listgarten | 17 comments | 1,278 views

Tame, Maim and Claim the Wild Sea Vegetable
By Laura Stec | 9 comments | 753 views


Register today!

On Friday, October 11, join us at the Palo Alto Baylands for a 5K walk, 5K run, 10K run or half marathon! All proceeds benefit local nonprofits serving children and families.

Learn More