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Morning Brief: Illegal Fireworks, Safe Streets, Why 'Sunset Boulevard' Strikes A Nerve

The night sky is lit up by fireworks as someone looks at them from afar in a dark picture.
People watch fireworks burst over Los Angeles, California on July 4, 2020.
(FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images
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Good morning, L.A. It’s June 30.

As always, try to stay happy and healthy, folks. There’s more news below the fold.

In recent years, on every Fourth of July, the night sky above Los Angeles erupts with the colorful sparks (and loud booms) of fireworks. Everywhere. For hours. In a lot of instances, it's just regular folks setting these things off in the streets, or in backyards. But the thing is, it's illegal in the city of L.A..

Most of us know this, yet the fireworks keep going off. This year authorities are really trying to clamp down across the county. Earlier this week, 14,000 pounds of illegal fireworks were seized in Azusa and, here in L.A., City Attorney Mike Feuer says his focus has been on online marketplaces, like Craigslist and Meta. He says he’s issued cease and desist letters. “We clearly can't stop every single instance of illegal fireworks coming into Los Angeles,” Feuer says. “But we can take creative steps like grappling with the online sale of fireworks that I'm hopeful will reduce the use of them this year.”

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The city is also offering to buy back illegal fireworks. People can turn them in for gift cards that can be used for gas or groceries. The buyback is from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday at Brand Park in Mission Hills.

Last year, an attempt to detonate a stash of illegal fireworks went terribly wrong. The explosion injured 17 people and damaged homes in the South LA neighborhood. We will dig into that story in more detail tomorrow, but this is how resident Jose Becerra remembers it: “It moved the floor, the walls, everything. And I see a lot of glass, a lot of shiny things going everywhere.”

Some experts say the past two years in the pandemic have been among the worst for fireworks safety.

Chris Nevil is the Public Information Officer at MySafe:LA, an organization that works with LAFD to create awareness around fireworks safety. Nevil says the pandemic was a huge setback to their efforts, which often involve going to schools and spaces like local YMCAs to educate children. “Now we're coming out of it, hopefully,” says Nevil. “We're back to banging hard on this message. We'll see what this year looks like. We're not naive, but we think that we've made a difference.”

In the meantime, if you’re still looking to get your fireworks fix, the LAFD has a list of legal fireworks shows to choose from.

— Anandita Bhalerao contributed reporting for this newsletter

One clarification from yesterday’s newsletter. In the note about the Griffith Park road closures, we should have specified that only a section of Griffith Park Drive is closed — from Travel Town to Mt. Hollywood Drive.

As always, try to stay happy and healthy, folks. There’s more news below the fold.

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