Fireworks are illegal in most of LA, so why do we hear thousands of them each year?


It’s officially summer in Los Angeles, and that means beach days, cookouts, your uncle’s weirdly patriotic aprons, and fireworks. It’d certainly be silent without the daily pyrotechnics that pop, crackle and light up as the sun goes down.

“I remember fireworks always being a comforting sound. For Angelenos and growing up in El Sereno, I really think that it just showed celebration, it showed that families were getting together,” says Elise Ryan, a 22-year-old Pasadena resident.

But it’s not all fun and games. 

Fireworks are illegal in the City of Los Angeles and in many parts of  the county, but that doesn’t stop enthusiasts from lighting up. They’re also dangerous: On Wednesday, 17 people were injured when 5,000 pounds of fireworks exploded during a police seizure in South LA. What, then, can be done about them?

To curb the fireworks, Robin Dixon has been posting up a storm on the hyperlocal social networking app Nextdoor. She’s a realtor who lives in Crenshaw, and has been hearing them in her neighborhood since April.

“How do you go to sleep when you have cherry bombs going off, that set off your alarms outside? They sound like torpedoes. You sound like you’re in Iraq,” Dixon says. 

The Los Angeles Police Department and LA Sheriff’s Department tells KCRW they’ll be patrolling on July 4 and that people could call the departments’ non-emergency numbers if they hear anything. 

But Dixon says her neighborhood’s complicated relationship with the police keeps her from calling 911 on fireworks. 

“This neighborhood, over the past 10 years, is just repairing its relationship with the police, and the police are starting to repair their relationship with the neighborhood,” she says. “But when you start snitching ... you’re put back into that same precarious situation of whether to do the right thing to be in compliance as a homeowner, or whether you’re betraying your neighborhood.”

They’re not just unlawful and occasionally annoying. With the state weathering a record 20-year drought, fireworks might also cause wildfires.

“We’re experiencing much more frequent fires, thanks to human activity. When you combine invasive species that also make things burn hotter and faster and much more aggressively, we have a real challenge on our hands,” says Brian Sheridan with the Coalition for Clean Air.

While they can be harmful and noisy to LA, they are still beautiful to watch. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to see them light up the night sky, legally.

The Los Angeles Fire Department has a list of professional fireworks shows on their website that you can attend through the holiday weekend.

Happy Fourth! Stay safe out there.