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Fireworks Sales Backers Point to a Safe Fourth

July 10, 1986|JEFF BURBANK | Times Staff Writer

Proponents of fireworks sales in Culver City said they will argue for passage of a November ballot measure to continue sales in light of this year's relatively safe July fourth holiday.

Culver City fire officials said only three minor injuries and a small brush fire were traced to fireworks during the June 29-July 4 sale period.

Councilman Richard Brundo, a fireworks supporter, said the reports prove his longstanding contention that fireworks sales should be allowed to continue.

"I don't believe the people who are opposed to safe and sane fireworks have ever had an argument, because the injuries and damages due to fireworks have been so minimal over the years," Brundo said. "As I (have) said . . . the Fourth of July is fireworks. It's a slice of Americana."

Councilman Richard Alexander, who also favors fireworks, said doing away with them would do more harm than good.

"If people are allowed to buy 'safe and sane' fireworks, there will be fewer people using illegal fireworks, so 'safe and sane' prevents injuries," Alexander said.

Potential Hazard

He admitted, however, that even "safe and sane" fireworks are potentially hazardous.

Councilman Paul A. Jacobs, a fireworks opponent, said that all fireworks are potentially harmful. He cited last week's fire in Anaheim, which destroyed an apartment building and which was traced to illegal fireworks.

"I'm not sure that the experience (this year) in Culver City will change any minds," Jacobs said, "but I don't think that anyone who reads the newspaper can fail to appreciate the danger of fireworks, legal or illegal."

Mayor Paul A. Netzel, another fireworks opponent, said that it is "contradictory" for Culver City to maintain its emergency fire service agreements with the cities of Los Angeles, Santa Monica and Beverly Hills while selling fireworks to their residents.

Councilwoman Jozelle Smith joins Jacobs and Netzel in opposing sales. All have said that fireworks pose a threat of injury and property damage.

Smith said that although the city was fortunate to get through the season with few injuries, "it doesn't alter my postion that fireworks can cause problems in the hands of unsupervised young people." She said that city officials should also be concerned about the injuries Culver City's fireworks may cause in other cities.

American Tradition

Brundo and Alexander have favored the sales, saying that proceeds are shared with local charity groups and that fireworks are an American tradition.

The city has a good safety record, but fire officials oppose the sales. And Culver City has been criticized by Los Angeles and Santa Monica fire officials, who say that residents setting off fireworks break local laws against their use and strain fire and police services.

Culver City is the only city on the Westside that permits the sale and use of fireworks, and last April, a sharply divided City Council decided to put the politically charged issue to the voters.

Fire Marshall Russell Matheson said the department had not determined whether the three injuries this year were caused by legal or illegal fireworks. The department will continue to survey fireworks-related injuries through July 17, he said.

Brotman Medical Center in Culver City received only one fireworks-related injury last week--a 14-year-old boy who was treated for shrapnel wounds in his hands, apparently caused by illegal fireworks, said Judy Davis, a hospital spokeswoman.

Davis said that the hospital handled three fireworks-related injuries last year, all caused by illegal fireworks.

Matheson said firemen doused a 60-square-foot brush fire at the end of Duquesne Avenue near Ballona Creek early Friday evening. Firemen found "safe and sane" fireworks at the scene, but have no suspects, he said.

'Quiet Fourth'

Fire officials on neighborhood patrols also confiscated "a few hundred" firecrackers, Roman candles, M-80s and other illegal fireworks, Matheson said.

"As far as Culver City is concerned, it was a quiet Fourth of July for us," Matheson said.

While there is division over fireworks sales, proponents and opponents favor continuing the city's annual show at Culver City High School. The show, funded in part by proceeds from sales at fireworks stands, would have to be funded by the city if fireworks sales were banned.

The city's show last Friday was attended by an estimated 20,000 spectators.

Culver City police reported no arrests and confiscated no illegal fireworks from people attending the 48-minute display.

"Everything went real smooth," said Sgt. Wally Duval. "We really have pretty much a small-town crowd here. We don't have an open area like (Santa Monica does) at the beach, so it isn't the type of show where that size of crowd can come."

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