East Long Beach investigation nets $250K in illegal fireworks

Long Beach Fire Captain Dobberpuhl, right, along with Long Beach Police Sgt. Brad Johnson holds a press conference about illegal firework as the police department has seized a large number of high-powered fireworks, with an approximate street value of $250,000 in Long Beach June 21, 2018. (Staff Photo Thomas R Cordova)

Several thousand pounds of fireworks amounting to about $250,000 in street value were seized by the Long Beach Police Department Wednesday, resulting in the arrest of two men, according to authorities.

The fireworks were seized from two separate storage facilities in Pico Rivera and Santa Fe Springs, which followed an investigation into illegal fireworks sales in East Long Beach, LBPD Sgt. Brad Johnson said.

Two men, an 82-year-old resident of Paramount, and his son, a 54-year-old man from West Covina, were detained in connection with the fireworks and could face felony charges, according to Johnson. Police did not release their names.

The fireworks were seized in conjunction with an arson task force from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. They will be turned over to the state’s fire marshal for disposal.

Representatives from the Long Beach Fire and Police Departments held a joint press conference at the LBFD headquarters Thursday where the seized fireworks were on display.

To show the size of one pyrotechnic Long Beach police Sgt. Brad Johnson holds a 30-40 pound firework. (Staff Photo Thomas R. Cordova)

Johnson said that the department’s detectives are using all resources available to them to crack down on illegal fireworks in the city but declined to get into the specifics of what led them to this particular bust.

“I want to make it clear to everybody out there that every year—and it’s been for a long time—that fireworks, even the safe and sane ones, are illegal in the city of Long Beach and the police department has taken a zero tolerance to any person found in the possession or the use of and you’ll face criminal sanctions or prosecution,” Johnson said.

“The Long Beach Police Department is not going to tolerate illegal fireworks in this city,” he added.

While “safe and sane” fireworks are permitted in some cities in Los Angeles County, Long Beach has a local ordinance that bans them from sale or use. The fireworks seized by the LBPD are considered illegal statewide because they explode, shoot into the air and contain large amounts of volatile or explosive ingredients.

Some cities that border Long Beach, like Lakewood and Carson, sell the safe and sane variety of fireworks, sometimes along streets that serve as the cities’ borders. Possession of or lighting off fireworks in the city could earn violators a fine of up to $1,000 or six months in jail.

Both Johnson and LBFD Capt. Matt Dobberpuhl stressed that residents should report any usage of fireworks to local law enforcement and leave fireworks to the professionals this Independence Day.

“We understand that the 4th of July is an important holiday for our country … but there are licensed professionals that put on amazing shows every year and we encourage you to attend,” Dobberpuhl said.

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Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post.