Illegal Fireworks Spark Complaints in City

File photo.

Although people across the country usually celebrate Independence Day with fireworks, some in Burbank have been setting off the explosives early this year — except they are illegal.
Sgt. Derek Green of the Burbank Police Department said via email that “estimations are that [fireworks] complaints have about doubled compared to last year.” But some comparisons showed a much greater difference: There were more than 100 firework-related calls in June 2020, compared to only 10 in June 2019.
Green also said that fireworks activity appears to have started much earlier this year than in previous years. Residents have shared worries on social media that the noise from the fireworks could negatively affect people with post-traumatic stress disorder and frighten pets.
“We just don’t know what to do,” resident Robin Randell told the City Council during its Tuesday meeting.
Randell, who called the council during its meeting’s public comment period, said that she represented more than 90 other residents concerned about the use of fireworks, with some members of her group telling her “it’s a war zone.”
Councilwoman Emily Gabel-Luddy added at the meeting that she has received numerous reports about the fireworks, with some residents saying that they’ve seen drivers throw fireworks out of their windows.
Fireworks, included those labeled “safe and sane,” are illegal in Burbank, Green said. Those caught using fireworks can also be held liable for any injuries they cause.
Don Ray, a Burbank resident and Vietnam War veteran, said that his PTSD can be triggered by fireworks, the sound and smell so akin to that of mortar bombing that he finds himself diving to the ground when one explodes.
“The primitive lizard brain is [saying], ‘Hey, I’m taking over,’” he said in a phone interview. “I don’t have time to think ‘is it’ or ‘isn’t it’ [danger]. I just react … even though I know I’m not in danger, I still can’t stop my body from jumping.”
Los Angeles County also announced Monday that fireworks shows, which can attract crowds, are banned countywide for Independence Day, citing concerns about the spread of the coronavirus. Burbank’s Fourth of July celebration, usually hosted at the Starlight Bowl, was also canceled.
Fireworks started a small fire on June 18, according to Green, when an officer caught a group of people standing around a bush that was burning at the Starlight Estates. Several minors who were detained admitted lighting the firework that started the fire. They were released pending follow-up and additional charges, as well as potential liability for the costs of the Burbank Fire Department response, Green said.
Although in this instance an officer was able to trace the owners of the fireworks, doing so is often difficult unless someone points police to a location or person, according to Green. He encouraged residents who see someone lighting fireworks to report the incident and agree to be identified as a witness, allowing police to respond with a citation or arrest.
“Hearing fireworks and reporting it is one thing, but actually witnessing someone doing it will help us to take enforcement action,” he said via email.
Police departments in other cities have reported an increase in fireworks use. In Pasadena, a team of officers is specifically assigned to respond to those calls, which have risen recently, according to Lt. Marcia Taglioretti.
Further away, in Carson, deputies seized illegal fireworks valued at about $10,000 on the weekend of June 13, the Carson Sheriff’s Station announced on social media.
And in New York City, where Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the creation of an illegal fireworks task force. Police Chief Rodney Harrison reported on June 24 that a 3-year-old boy had been injured by a firework that burst above his apartment.
Here in Burbank, Ray asked people thinking about using fireworks to find another way to celebrate.
“I hope that the people who enjoy fireworks understand that there are older people or people that are victims of crimes or war that this has a horrible effect on,” he said. “I would hope that they would be more considerate.”

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