The Los Angeles City Fire Department has launched its fifth annual public relations effort to persuade people that fireworks are dangerous as well as illegal.
The department has installed more than 60 street banners, proclaiming "All Fireworks Are Illegal," near Culver City and some of the 43 other cities in Los Angeles County that permit fireworks.
Fireworks make July 4 the busiest day of the year for fire and health officials. They complain that Culver City and other cities bordering Los Angeles encourage Los Angeles residents to buy fireworks, which are illegal in the city and unincorporated sections of the county.
Goal: No Injuries
"Our goal is no injuries at all this year due to fireworks," said Battalion Chief Michael Fulmis, coordinator of the Los Angeles Fire Department's anti-fireworks public relations campaign. "Basically the thing that stands in our way is the cities adjacent to our city that allow the sale of fireworks, like San Fernando and Culver City. The problem is the availability of fireworks so close to the city."
In this year's campaign, the department will use $200,000 worth of donated space on billboards and in magazines, plus free air time on radio and television. The department also is distributing thousands of anti-fireworks posters and flyers to merchants, schools and neighborhood groups.
Fulmis said the department will urge people to stop buying fireworks, and go to public fireworks shows instead.
"We're not against mom and apple pie," he said, "but we are encouraging people to go to the fireworks displays by people who know what they are doing, are safer and something they will probably get more enjoyment out of."
Damage Reports Drop
The anti-fireworks campaign has been successful each year in reducing fireworks-related injuries and property damage, Fulmis said. Last year, there were 96 reported damage cases and $115,600 in property losses, compared to 500 cases that cost $2.1 million in 1981, he said. Also, the department received only three reports of injuries caused by fireworks, compared to 19 reported injuries in 1984.
From June 29 to July 4, boxes of cone fountains, sparklers and other state-approved fireworks will be sold in Culver City to thousands of Westside residents despite opposition from fire officials in Los Angeles and surrounding communities.
Culver City, where fireworks have been legal since 1937, is the only city on the Westside to allow the sale and use of so-called "safe and sane" fireworks. City Officials said that the town's safety record is good.
But officials in neighboring cities say that fireworks sales in Culver City put a strain on their police and fire departments. In Santa Monica, fireworks have been blamed for starting brush fires on cliffs between Ocean Avenue and Pacific Coast Highway, according to Fire Marshal Robert Prickett.
Cause Hard to Determine
Last year, fireworks caused 12 fires on July 4 alone, although it was difficult to tell if they were caused by the illegal or the safe and sane variety, Prickett said.
Of the safe and sane variety, steel-rod sparklers cause the most personal injuries, usually burns or punctures after people step on used rods left in the beach sand, he said.
Safe and sane fireworks also are a trash problem on the beach, Prickett said. "When people get done shooting them, they leave the (fireworks) box and everything else and get up and go home."
Although state-outlawed fireworks, such as bottle rockets, Roman candles and firecrackers, cause the most injuries and property damage, Prickett said that if Culver City officials banned safe and sane fireworks, far fewer people would use fireworks on the Westside.
Laws Do Not Match
But Culver City officials who favor fireworks are unconvinced that the sales cause problems for neighboring cities. They said their city reserves the right to write its own laws governing pyrotechnics.
"Culver City has its rules and regulations, Los Angeles has theirs. Unfortunately, Culver City and L.A. do not agree," said Culver City Councilman Richard Brundo, a longtime supporter of fireworks. "But Culver City will never take directions from L.A. I don't believe it's the city's responsibility. If someone wants to get involved with an illegal activity in their city, it's their business. I believe it's the residents' responsibility to follow the law."
Brundo said he would favor banning fireworks if he thought they posed a threat to the community. Culver City, however, has an "excellent" safety record, and the three fireworks-related injuries reported in the city last year were caused by illegal fireworks, he said.
"We would have people setting off fireworks in Culver City whether we allowed their sale or not," Brundo said. "It's their way of celebrating the Fourth of July, and I think it's quite American."
Opponent Speaks Out