Yes, that time is upon us, when as soon as the sun goes down, shots ring out across LA's neighborhoods. Not gunshots (for the most part), but something acoustically similar: fireworks. Second-hand accounts and observations by this reporter suggest that people are already setting off firecrackers in Koreatown, Silver Lake, Echo Park, and Westlake.
Meanwhile, police and firefighters around Los Angeles are hoping for a safe year in 2012. Previous years have seen injuries and property damage. For instance, according to the National Fire Protection Association, 15,500 fires started by fireworks in 2010 wreaked $36 million worth of property damage. That same year, emergency rooms treated 8,600 people for fireworks related injuries, almost half of them children under 15. LAFD says that with fireworks, as with many things in life, more often than not it's the bystander, not the instigator who gets hurt.
As of Monday morning, LAFD hadn't heard of any known fireworks related incidents so far this Fourth of July week, but they're also not sure fireworks fires are getting tracked appropriately. Fires can get reported as "brush fires" or numerous other things, and not necessarily trigger a database to read them as fireworks-related.
According to LAFD Spokesman Matthew Spence, the department is hoping to get accurate statistics this year and has taken some steps to tag fireworks-related fires in their reporting system.
And law enforcement agencies in the area have gone into overdrive trying to stop up the apparently massive flow of fireworks from Mexico and Nevada currently rushing towards Los Angeles, the most densely populated urban area in the United States. Just in the past few days:
- A 74-year-old Willowbrook man was arrested for allegedly possessing 8,000 of illegal fireworks (and all fireworks are illegal in LA County!), some of them in boxes that warned, "Shoots Flaming Balls."
- Two LA men were arrested for allegedly trying to smuggle 3,950 in fireworks through the Yermo Agricultural Inspection Station near Barstow.
For info on public (legal!) fireworks shows, see the LAFD site.