fireworks seizure

Long Beach Police Sergeant Brad Johnson, left, and Long Beach Fire Department Fire Captain Matt Dobbenpuhl hold a roll of 16,000 firecrackers last year after discussing details of the departments' seizure of several thousand pounds of illegal fireworks.

Independence Day is two weeks away, and city officials are ramping up fireworks ban enforcement.

Long Beach bans private use of all fireworks, including the "safe and sane" fireworks sold in stores in neighboring communities. However, fireworks use on and around July 4 has been a target of complaints in the city for years.

Third District Councilwoman Suzie Price says that illegal fireworks use has become a focus for her. She created a residents advisory group in 2017, and with their help has offered a number of recommendations. Central to the effort is a series of public service announcements (PSAs) created in partnership with the committee and Cal State Long Beach students.

Those PSAs are being shown now on LBTV and the electronic billboard in front of the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center on Ocean Boulevard. Price also showed them again at Tuesday's City Council meeting to lead into a fireworks enforcement discussion.

After the public information campaign, the emphasis turns to enforcement. Long Beach's Police and Fire departments are on maximum staff levels on the Fourth of July, but officials have cautioned in the past that police patrol officers prioritize more serious calls before turning to illegal fireworks use.

"More than 400 pounds of fireworks already have been confiscated in buy-bust operations this year," Arantxa Chavarria, LBPD spokesperson, said Tuesday. "Each patrol division has extra resources this year to use for fireworks enforcement (before the Fourth of July)."

Chavarria said detectives and command staff works on the holiday along with the patrol officers to free up as many resources as possible. Enforcement of driving under the influence laws also is a priority that day.

Jake Heflin, Fire Department spokesman, said fire investigators will be available to support the Long Beach Police Department in their enforcement activities and efforts relating to fireworks. 

"In addition," Heflin said, "our engine companies will also be out in the community visiting neighborhood block parties and joining in the celebration while maintaining vigilance for illegal activities that require intervention from law enforcement."

Under the city's fireworks law, anyone cited or arrested for fireworks violations face a fine of up to $1,000, be sentenced to jail for six months, or both. To report fireworks violations, call the Long Beach Police Department at 562-435-6711 or 9-1-1.

"This is a public safety problem for a number of reasons, not only the injuries to adults and children, but also the damage to property that is often caused and the genuine threat of fire with vegetation especially dry during the summer months," Price wrote in an email. "Additionally, fireworks have a serious impact on pets and many of our residents wo are veterans."

To see the public service announcements, go to https://vimeo.com/334531607https://vimeo.com/334531179 or https://vimeo.com/334531451.

Harry has been executive editor of Gazette Newspapers for more than 26 years. He has been in the newspaper business for more than 35 years, with experience on both weekly and metropolitan daily papers in Colorado and California.

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