Year after year, it seems like the loud booms of illegal pyrotechnics going off in neighborhoods during the July 4 holiday celebrations across the Valley get worse and worse.
Neighborhood social media sites like Next Door are filled with people commiserating about what to do. They complain that night after night, leading up to July 4 there is no relief from the noise which can “sound like bullets” keeping them on edge and sleep deprived.
The loud booms and neighborhood displays can begin early in June, and go on constantly past the July Fourth holiday, which is happening this weekend.
It’s one reason the Los Angeles Police and Los Angeles Fire departments, in conjunction with LA City Councilmember Monica Rodriguez, offered a “buyback” program this year for the first time in the Northeast San Fernando Valley.
On Wednesday, June 30, people anonymously brought illegal fireworks transported in the trunks and backseats of their vehicles to the parking lot of Brand Park in Mission Hills, where they were inspected and collected by police officers and firefighters.
Through sponsorship from the Los Angeles Dodgers, Food 4 Less, Target and NBC Universal, those bringing the fireworks were compensated with baseball game tickets and gifts, depending on the value of the fireworks received.
LAPD Capt. Mike Odle, assigned to the Mission Hills station, said he was pleased by the steady trickle of cars and SUVs pulling into the parking lot, which lasted from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
“We were hoping for what we’re seeing right now — people turning in illegal fireworks,” Odle said. “Because at the end of the day, the whole point is to have a safe Fourth of July for everybody. And with the limited amount of outreach [about the buyback program] we’ve had at this point, we do have people showing up.
“Hopefully that will encourage people to spread the word, and next time we do this it will be even more robust,” Odle said.
The pilot fireworks buyback program was focused on the San Fernando Valley this year because 45% of last year’s LAPD service calls were fireworks related.
“The residents of the Northeast San Fernando Valley have endured multiple wildfires in recent years, resulting in mass evacuations. The use of illegal fireworks poses a real threat of another major fire in our communities,” Rodriguez said, during a press conference on Tuesday, June 29, announcing the event.
“I thank members of our community for their collaboration and support to develop a creative solution to curb the use of illegal fireworks beyond enforcement efforts alone,” she said
On Wednesday, LAFD Assistant Chief Corey Rose, stressed how upsetting and agonizing the constant but unexpected barrage of noisy explosions can be for pets and people.
“Fireworks are illegal and can cause harm to all ages,” Rose said. “I’ve seen children traumatized physically with injuries and seen people succumb from injuries from fireworks. And we’re in a high-fire severity zone. The fires we’ve had over the years have caused mass destruction — loss of life, loss of property, loss of landscape.”
“Another issue is people may not think about: how disturbing and traumatizing it is for our animals and pets. And people with mental illness, particularly those with PTSD, when they hear these [unexpected loud noises] it is very traumatizing to them. We need to be sensitive to people who have these kinds of issues.”
Rose added that the public must be mindful of the current high risk of wildfires due to the continuing drought conditions the Valley and other areas of Los Angeles County are enduring, and that even an unintended spark from fireworks can lead to catastrophic situations.
“Last year’s fire season was one of the worst on record. This year could be even worse because it is so dry,” the assistant fire chief said.
“I’m born and raised in Sunland, and have worked the majority of my career here. February, in my mind, has always been one of the wettest months of the year. This year there was zero rainfall. So the vegetation is not only dry, there is a lot of dead vegetation. Which means the ignition factor is much higher and the fires will burn much easier and spread faster.”
Diana Martinez contributed to this report.
City News Service contributed to this report.