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Most South LA Residents Displaced By Botched Fireworks Detonation Can Start Going Home

Crowd  behind police barriers and caution tape looks over firework explosion site on a blocked road in South L.A. An LAFD fire truck is visible on the left.
A crowd gathers at the site of the June 30 firework explosion in South L.A.
(Austin Cross
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Most of the families displaced by the June 30 fireworks explosion in South L.A. can now officially begin the process of returning home.

After a private update from City Councilmember Curren Price’s staff Thursday, an undisclosed number of residents were escorted to their homes to begin the cleanup process.

Staff from the city’s Department of Building and Safety were on site to assess the damage to people’s homes and restore their utilities if it's safe, said James Westbrooks, Price’s deputy chief of staff. Gas and power had been turned off after the explosion as a precaution.

“If those damages are minor like trash and debris and broken glass, we have cleanup crews out here to help assist with the cleanup with the hope that they can move back into their home if not today, tomorrow,” he said.

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But it’s not safe for all residents to go home yet. Three homes have been red tagged, meaning structural damage caused by the LAPD’s botched detonation of illegal fireworks makes the structures too unstable, Westbrooks said.

The Blast Displaced An Estimated 75 People

Price’s office estimates the blast displaced 75 people, said staffer Mike Castillo, who added that keeping an accurate count is tricky because not all residents have come forward, and some single family homes house multiple families.

Eleven families comprising 55 people have been provided motel vouchers by the nonprofit Homeless Outreach Program Integrated Care System. Price’s office has pledged to extend those vouchers for as long as necessary until all residents can safely return to their homes.

The South Central Neighborhood Council has demanded the city financially compensate everyone affected by the blast for injuries, property damage and emotional distress.

Price is in favor of having the city compensate residents for physical harm and property damage, said his spokesperson Dedee Verdin. As far as compensation for emotional trauma, she said Price’s office is directing residents to the resource center set up at Trinity Park for mental health services.

Staff from the city clerk and city attorney’s offices have been at the resource center to help people initiate claims for damages incurred in the explosion, Westbrooks said.

A man wearing a white shirt, grey pants and a face mask stands at the back of his white car, the hatch open, with a box inside the hatch.
Jose Poncé prepares to deliver orders for his father's embroidery and screen printing business.
(Julia Paskin

21-year-old Jose Poncé told us his father, who owns an embroidery and screen printing business in the neighborhood, has started the process of seeking compensation for his losses. He estimated his father has lost $20,000 over the past week because he hadn’t been able to get into his shop to fulfill orders until Wednesday.

“Orders are just hanging like a waste of money,” Poncé said. He spoke with us after retrieving some orders from the store and loading them into his car for delivery.

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Because business temporarily came to a halt, his father hasn’t been able to pay him, Poncé said.

He worried about an imminent car payment and other expenses,.

“I gotta figure it out by the end of the month,” he said. “This is going to be tough.”