L.A. official goes after online fireworks sales

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Wave Wire Services

LOS ANGELES — In an effort to reduce the use of illegal fireworks during the Fourth of July weekend, City Attorney Mike Feuer has sent cease-and-desist letters to major online platforms that were hosting fireworks advertisements.

“It’s illegal to sell or possess fireworks in L.A. for good reason,” Feuer said. “Fireworks pose the very real risk of injuries, and our fire danger is acutely high given the ongoing drought. In addition, the loud, sudden noise can be triggering for veterans and survivors of gun violence with PTSD, and awful for families with special needs children and for pets.

Angelenos should leave fireworks to the pros, and with pandemic restrictions easing there will be many spectacular Fourth of July events throughout Southern California,” he added.

Feuer’s consumer protection unit sent the letters to online platforms including Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, OfferUp and 5Miles, which agreed to remove the advertisements targeting customers in Los Angeles, Feuer’s office said. The letters informed the corporations that the platforms hosted fireworks-for-sale offers in Los Angeles, in violation of municipal and state law.

Los Angeles Municipal Code section 57.5608.1.1 says it is unlawful and a misdemeanor to use, sell, possess or discharge any fireworks in the city.

Some of the corporations had their own policies prohibiting the sale of fireworks.

OfferUp told Feuer it added staff to ensure that future posts offering the sale of fireworks are excluded from the site, and Facebook Marketplace said it would work to identify and remove similar listings going forward, Feuer said.

It’s the second consecutive year that Feuer’s office has worked to reduce online sales of fireworks before the Fourth of July, noting the disruption that pyrotechnics cause to neighbors and pets, as well as the risk of fire.

People with post-traumatic stress disorder, such as veterans, first responders and survivors of gun violence, can be impacted by the unexpected loud noise caused by fireworks at unplanned hours, Feuer said. Additionally, children with special needs, including autism spectrum disorder and sensory issues, may have trouble tolerating the noise, and pets often escape their homes and yards in an attempt to find safety.

Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore said his department is inundated with phone calls about illegal fireworks around the holiday every year.

“Last year, with the pandemic and the necessity of canceling public-sanctioned fireworks shows, we saw a 72% increase in calls for service,” Moore told the Police Commission June 28.

Moore said that last year the number of service calls was about 6,000.

Each of those calls for service represented individuals that allegedly were in possession and using fireworks which are entirely completely illegal in the city of Los Angeles. Our men and women have seized more than four tons of firework material during that period of time,” he said.

Additionally, the use of legal and illegal fireworks in Southern California last July created the worst air quality in the region in a decade, according to the South Coast Air Quality Management District.

Concentrations of PM2.5 were 70% higher than previous years between 7 p.m. on the Fourth of July and 7 a.m. the next day in the South Coast Air Basin, which includes Orange County and parts of Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties, according to the AQMD.

The City Council approved a motion June 29 introduced by Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas to direct the fire and police departments to report back on setting up a mobile app to track and respond to fireworks complaints and issue automatic violations, similar to a program set up in San Bernardino County.

The bottom line has to be safety,” Ridley-Thomas said after the vote. “The use of illegal fireworks poses a threat to Angelenos. We must get creative, and we must make it easy to identify illegal fireworks use and establish sufficient repercussions to curb this activity. Too many of our neighbors are literally playing with fire, and the results can be lethal.”

Los Angeles Fire Department Chief Ralph Terrazas said the department “is supportive of all programs which can significantly reduce the risk of injury and potential fireworks from the use of illegal fireworks.”

People can report fireworks at complaint.lacity.org/Complaint/fireworks, and those who have unwanted fireworks can turn them into the LAPD without penalty.

In May, the Los Angeles City Council approved a motion to pursue a fireworks buyback program and reward program for people who report major suppliers of fireworks.

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