A city poster that's being posted online and being distributed to residents reminding them that fireworks are illegal in Long Beach.
As the Independence Day holiday approaches city leaders in Long Beach are ramping up their anti-firework campaign in an attempt to quell what has been characterized as an annual escalation in the use of illegal fireworks in the days and weeks leading up to the Fourth of July.
Last year saw the city’s fire and police departments respond to 80 fireworks related incidents leading to citations being issued and over 600 pounds of illegal fireworks being seized. The Long Beach Fire Department also responded to five fires and at least one serious medical emergency during last year’s holiday period.
“It is important to remember that this increased call load for both fire and police over this holiday period is in addition to what we would normally expect to see in our normal call volumes,” said Long Beach Fire Department Chief Mike Duree. “This time of year is already typically busy for us and the 4th of July holiday period just compounds that.”
Long Beach Police Department Chief Robert Luna noted that all officers who aren’t scheduled for vacation or don’t have “unusual circumstances” arise are scheduled to work the July Fourth holiday.
Because fireworks are illegal in Long Beach even the “safe and sane” brands sold at legal fireworks shops in surrounding cities are subject to fines. Those can range from $1,000 and six months in jail but could fluctuate based on the classification of the fireworks being discharged in the city limits.
The city is trying to amplify its messaging this year by having volunteers from its CERT Program and lifeguards pass out fliers to residents advising them of the ban. Fire department apparatuses citywide have similar magnets posted on their bodies and members of the department will give speeches at block parties about the dangers of fireworks.
It has also branched out to creating yard signs to remind residents of the ban and urging them that if they see something, say something.
Vice Mayor Rex Richardson held one of those signs during Tuesday night’s city council meeting while explaining that council offices are “bombarded” with calls about illegal fireworks every year, adding that it can cause serious quality of life issues for some residents and a more comprehensive approach needed to be explored.
“We’re one team in this city,” Richardson said. “The only way we can abate this is we really hold our neighbors accountable.”
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), a national nonprofit dedicated to eliminating both losses of property and person due to fire related issues, conducts periodic reports on the damage inflicted from fireworks.
It’s most recent report released in June 2016 NFPA figures showed that between 2009 and 2013 32 deaths related to fireworks were either reported to United States fire departments or listed as a cause of death on US birth certificates. That’s in addition to the thousands of injuries that were recorded every year over the past three and a half decades.
The report also found that nearly half of all fires reported on July 4 during that time span were caused by fireworks.
The type of firework responsible for the most amount of injuries in 2014 were sparklers, which accounted for 28 percent of all injuries reported according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). It’s most recent annual report results showed that the hand-held favorites of children—they burn at nearly 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit—accounted for more than double the number of injuries (800) sustained from bottle rockets.
The city is seeking voluntary compliance from residents this holiday season to help ensure that Long Beach structures or residents don’t end up on next year’s CPSC report.
In order for the LBPD to issue a citation an officer must see the person lighting the fireworks, a task that can be near impossible as a large number of persons often flee the scene after the fireworks have been discharged or when they see a police cruiser. However, the city is hopeful that its increased push for community policing will lead to a better experience for Fourth of July revelers this year and less of a strain on the city’s emergency responders.
“I can’t tell you how important it is for people when they see this activity to report it,” Luna said. “I think someone will be less likely to do it if they know everyone’s watching them and will call the police when they’re doing so.”
The city has two legal fireworks shows planned for the holiday celebration. The first is scheduled for Monday July 3 at Alamitos Bay and the the second will take place on July 4 at the Queen Mary.