People across Southern California say illegal fireworks displays this summer seem to be louder and longer — raising concerns of fire danger, injuries and effects on people with PTSD.
“It’s a lot worse this year,” said Venice resident Georgia Cirigliana, venting her frustrations about the nightly displays. “It’s deep booms — sometimes it sounds like gunshots.”
In the San Fernando Valley, veteran Catherine Aiello told KTLA the some of the fireworks are so loud, it sounds like bombs are going off in her Panorama City neighborhood.
“Sometimes I want to cry. Sometimes I want to get underneath the bed because they’re so loud,” said Aiello, who has post-traumatic stress disorder. “July 4 I get … but when you do it from May to October, every single night and you’ve got someone like me that’s suffering from PTSD, it’s not OK.”
If you’re among those in the city who believe they are hearing more pyrotechnics than usual, you’re hardly alone. Sources told KTLA that the Los Angeles Police Department has seen 2 1/2 times the amount of radio calls involving illegal fireworks this year.
The uptick isn’t just in Southern California. From Boston to New York City and San Francisco to Chicago, complaints from large cities across the country abound on social media. So do conspiracy theories about why it’s happening.
Fireworks complaints, seizures
As more and more people took to social media to complain, LAPD on Twitter on Sunday night acknowledged an uptick in chatter about the issue — and polled users on whether they found fireworks “annoying.”
About three-quarters of those who responded to the informal poll said yes, they are.
The tweet also elicited a number of comments from fed-up residents across L.A., some of whom felt their complaints weren’t being heard.
LAPD has asked for people to report illegal fireworks through the agency’s online system, rather than by dialing 911.
The issue has gotten bad enough in some parts of the city that a petition has been started calling on Mayor Eric Garcetti to do something about the problem.
“In the Silverlake/Los Feliz/Echo Park neighborhoods of Los Angeles, illegal fireworks are constantly going off, and our veterans and animals suffer for months on end because of it,” read the change.org petition, which was posted a few weeks ago. “We’re asking for this law to be better enforced, and for those purchasing and setting off illegal fireworks to be warned, fined, and/or jailed.”
The petition had nearly 1,000 signatures by late Tuesday morning.
Beyond L.A., there have been numerous complaints on social media about pyrotechnics across the Southland.
In the Carson area, $10,000 worth of illegal fireworks were seized earlier this month, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. Deputies have recently stepped up patrols to deal with the issue, the agency said.
And last week, the Irwindale Police Department announced that officers had confiscated nearly a ton of illegal fireworks.
There were even complaints about such displays as early as late May, after Anaheim police linked a vehicle fire to fireworks that exploded inside the car while it was driving down a street one night.
“He must be my neighbor on w. cerritos ave between Magnolia and dale that likes to set off at least 2/3 every nite around 8-9 pm,” one Twitter user responded to the Anaheim Police Department’s tweet.
Fire officials warn of potential dangers
Fire officials worry the pyrotechnics could lead to potentially destructive and even deadly blazes.
“Fireworks cause fires, and that’s whether it’s a tree fire, or a grass fire that turns into a brush fire. And the concern is now that we are certainly entering our hot, dry summer months,” Los Angeles Fire Department Capt. Erik Scott told KTLA.
Recent blazes in Hacienda Heights and Boyle Heights are believed to have been sparked by illegal fireworks.
And apart from fires, they can also lead to serious injuries.
“Fireworks are dangerous for the obvious reasons,” Scott said. “They can cause painful and debilitating injuries that can leave a lifetime of scar damage.”
‘Knocked … over’ by demand for pyrotechnics
It’s still not clear why displays are happening so frequently this year, but experts have their theories.
Bill Weimer, the vice president and general counsel at leading U.S. fireworks retailer Phantom Fireworks, speculates the increase in activity may be tied to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has kept many Americans sheltered indoors for months and led to the cancelation of Fourth of July fireworks shows.
“It’s a combination of people getting out, being anxious and having this pent-up energy, and then right around the corner is a quintessential firework holiday,” he told CNN. “Put the two together, consider the fact that there won’t be a lot of fireworks, and suddenly, you have a formula that means people are buying more and more fireworks, and buying them earlier.”
Weimer, who has worked in the pyrotechnics business for nearly three decades, described being “knocked … over” by the recent demand.
“Without reviewing specific numbers, the demand and the business we’ve seen so far has been the strongest early fireworks season I’ve seen in my years of involvement in the fireworks business,” he said.