Bright yellow, red and blue lights burst high in the Los Angeles sky. The baritone booms of the M-80s mix with the staccato crack of firecrackers. Move over, July 4th – the New Year’s holiday is encroaching on your status as an illegal fireworks extravaganza.
Fire departments across the region, including the City and County of Los Angeles, Long Beach and Pasadena, are preparing for an onslaught of illegal fireworks at midnight on Dec. 31 and are warning residents of the dangers and consequences of a shooting. Air quality officials monitor harmful particles. Dog owners provide comfortable rooms for their scared pets.
“In general, we see fireworks displays that are larger than what some professionals do in some of our neighborhoods,” said Lisa Derderian, a spokeswoman for the city of Pasadena, which is in the New Year’s spotlight as as host city of the Rose Parade and the Rose Bowl. .
While midnight booms – including illegal firing of firearms into the air – have long been the dangerous scourge of New Year’s Eve in Los Angeles, illegal fireworks set off at home have increased dramatically. exponential in recent years, city and fire officials said.
And they blame the pandemic.
Until December 31, 2020, authorities, fearing COVID-19 “superspreader” gatherings, asked people to stay at home. Celebrants who had little else to do turned to setting off more fireworks than usual to ring in the new year. The same thing happened in 2021, giving birth to a new trend.
Even though New Year’s parties and large gatherings are back, this practice persists. Firefighters have seen a significant increase in fireworks this week and expect a wave of crackles and pops as midnight passes in 2023.
“We see them everywhere,” said Richard Cordova, battalion chief for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Prevention, warning that just like the Fourth of July, the New Year’s fireworks display carries the same risks including fire, injury and running animals. far scared.
The South Coast Air Quality Management District has also experienced this unhealthy trend. In 2020, he warned that fireworks would create unhealthy air. Elderly people, young children and people with lung diseases were particularly susceptible to bad air, the agency said.
This week, the district ordered a shutdown of wood-burning fireplaces and will monitor the air, ready to issue new warnings if necessary.
Many residents are also annoyed by winter fireworks.
“It’s a nightmare because there are people setting off fireworks on street corners and in front of my house all night, but you never see these people cleaning up,” said Tony Marquez, retired from 71, of Boyle Heights. “There’s trash everywhere.”
Over the past New Year’s celebrations, residents took to the streets in the days before and after Jan. 1 to throw “bombs” and improvised fireworks, Márquez said. His neighborhood was “filled with trash and smoke” the next morning.
Marquez said the poor air quality made it difficult to breathe during his daily hike around the 1.4-mile rubberized trail that surrounds the famous Evergreen Cemetery. This routine helps soothe arthritis in his right knee, first diagnosed in 2008.
He now spends a good part of his time knocking down abandoned projectiles with his feet or a wooden cane.
“It’s the neighborhood dogs that have to deal with this, too,” Marquez said.
At Heavenly Pet Resort in Temple City, manager Thomas Mendoza’s plans for New Year’s Eve include turning up the volume of the spa’s soothing music to calm dogs and cats.
“People party by shooting fireworks, guns, M-80s and other things that are very loud and disturb pets,” Mendoza said. “So we do what we can to distract them. … I don’t know if the situation has gotten worse in recent years, but it’s noisier and it’s affecting the animals.”
The warning about the dangers of fireworks has become a persistent warning, with additional concerns in December, firefighters said.
“Now our message is broad, and applies throughout the year,” Cordova said. “All year round we confiscate fireworks.”
Aerial rockets, cherry bombs, M-80s and anything that explodes in the sky are illegal throughout California, but some jurisdictions allow the use of “safe and sane” fireworks. However, California law allows the sale of fireworks “safe and sound” only in the weeks leading up to the Fourth of July. Their sale is illegal the rest of the year.
That means the “safe and sound” fireworks set off on New Year’s Eve were likely purchased in the summer and stored for months, officials said. All other fireworks — like the ones that shoot into the air and are prevalent on July 4 and New Year’s Eve — were likely purchased from out of state and smuggled in.
There is no law prohibiting legally purchased fireworks from being stored for months, Cordova said, but there are certainly safety concerns surrounding the storage of explosive materials. Improperly stored fireworks can become unstable and unpredictable when used.
Cal Fire estimates that in 2022, fireworks were responsible for more than $25 million in property losses. Each fiscal year, the agency seizes more than 220,000 pounds of mostly illegal fireworks that need to be disposed of.
“There are no sales of (safe and sane) fireworks this time of year,” said Craig Little, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County Fire Department. “Wherever they get them, they are most likely illegal.”
Figures on the number of fireworks-related calls the agency responds to at the end of the year were not immediately available.
“All we can do is monitor,” Little said. “There are a ton of people who still choose to shake things up on New Year’s Eve.”
Fireworks are still much more popular on the Fourth of July, but for Los Angeles County fire officials, the New Year’s message now echoes the Fourth of July, Little said.
“Let’s leave all the fireworks to the professionals,” he said.
In Long Beach, police are increasing “high visibility” patrols on New Year’s Eve to watch for illegal fireworks, drunken driving and other safety calls, a spokesperson said . Under the city’s municipal code, property owners can be fined up to $20,000 if fireworks are found to be being set off on their property.
Pasadena has a similar law, which can result in jail time and a fine of up to $50,000 for landlords. The city is expecting hundreds of thousands of visitors for the Rose Parade and Rose Bowl games on Jan. 1, with police already in “all hands on deck” mode, but Derderian said the fireworks at the New Year’s Eve would add to the work.
“We see fireworks and police and firefighters patrol for the 24 hours leading up to the parade,” she said. “Illegal fires and fireworks, unfortunately, we see it every year.”
Marquez said he thinks more fireworks are being set off during New Year’s celebrations now than in the previous decade.
“In Boyle Heights, they let off fireworks for the Dodgers or if the football team wins,” he said. “It’s just another reason to do the same.”
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