A Long Beach resident was shaken up but unharmed recently when an errant firework burst through his bedroom wall, covering him in sawdust and embedding shrapnel in the drywall of his apartment near the Traffic Circle.

“I’m still trying to piece it all together myself,” the resident, Cory Schmillen, said.

Shortly after 1 a.m. Sunday, Schmillen awoke to a whistling sound and a loud explosion “like a concussion grenade,” Schmillen said. There was smoke, bright light and intense heat in his upstairs unit in the 4700 block of Malta Street.

Not knowing what had happened, Schmillen fled his room but soon had to run back in to grab his phone. When he called 911 and the dispatcher asked what the emergency was, he responded “I don’t know.”

Soon, though, firefighters arrived to investigate the explosion. There were no flames, just residual smoke in one bedroom of the house, said Long Beach Fire Capt. Jack Crabtree.

The firework, which investigators believe was a mortar, blew through the exterior stucco and created a hole in the bedroom wall about three feet above Schmillen’s bed, he said.

The hole left by a firework on the exterior of Cory Schmillen’s apartment near the Traffic Circle. Photo courtesy Cory Schmillen.

A camera captured choppy video of the firework launch, showing three people with a dog and which direction they ran, Schmillen said.

The incident is still under investigation by arson investigators, Crabtree said.

Schmillen moved to the apartment on Malta Street just three months ago, following a fire at his former apartment off Pacific Coast Highway and Bellflower Boulevard.

Schmillen was in Las Vegas at the time but had to vacate the apartment when he returned because his unit sustained heavy smoke damage.

He said there previously hadn’t been much firework activity near his apartment on Malta, but when he lived near Eighth Street and Orizaba Avenue, fireworks were almost a nightly occurrence during the pandemic.

Schmillen reported fireworks activity to the Long Beach Police Department when he said people were having “full-on fireworks shows,” but he never saw officers respond.

“I used to play with fireworks when I was a kid, but I could make a mistake and not kill anyone,” Schmillen said.

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Crews are coming next week to replace the entire wall of his apartment unit and fix damage done to the roof, which became dislodged from the wall because of the blast, he said.

There was no damage to his headboard, bed or dresser, but “my clothes were a little smoky,” Schmillen said.

On the Fourth of July, Schmillen said he plans to go to a friend’s barbecue and console any dogs who are scared of fireworks.

All fireworks, including sparklers, are illegal within Long Beach city limits. Anyone cited or arrested for fireworks violations could face at least a $1,000 fine, be sentenced to jail for six months, or both, according to city municipal code section 1.32.010.

Community members are urged to make detailed reports about fireworks usage or sales by calling the non-emergency number at 562-435-6711. Residents can also submit a fireworks complaint by downloading the updated Go Long Beach App, available on Apple and Android, or directly on the Go Long Beach website.

Anyone who ‘hosts’ an event with fireworks could be liable for all response costs, which can be upwards of $20,000 per response, in addition to other fines.