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L.A. Police Prepare for Fireworks

Holiday: Officials warn against private use of explosive devices, which is prohibited in the city, and firing weapons to celebrate Fourth of July.

July 04, 2002|KENNETH REICH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Los Angeles law enforcement and elected officials warned strongly Wednesday against any private use of fireworks or the celebratory firing of weapons into the air in the city on today's Fourth of July holiday.

Interim Police Chief Martin Pomeroy and Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca also said they will have a maximum deployment of personnel today and be well-prepared to respond to any act of terrorism.

Officials said there have been no specific threats.

Baca said that under mutual aid plans, he would be prepared to send sheriff's units into the city to assist local police, and call on Orange County for assistance should the need arise. He also said the FBI is ready to respond.

On the issue of fireworks, both the district attorney's office and Los Angeles City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo said they would bring the most serious possible charges against violators. Although 229 California cities authorize the sale of fireworks, including 38 in Los Angeles County, any sale or use outside authorized fireworks displays is prohibited in Los Angeles city.

Mayor James K. Hahn, joining a news conference at the Police Academy, vowed that violators would not only be arrested but would also be prosecuted and could serve substantial jail time.

The biggest seizure of fireworks in the city so far came Monday, when the Police Department's bomb squad, backed by firefighters, found "boxes and boxes of fireworks stacked from the floor to about halfway up to the ceiling," of an otherwise empty duplex in the 900 block of West 85th Street. Anthony Anderson, 37, is being held in lieu of $500,000 bail on a felony charge of possession of destructive devices.

LAPD spokesman Jack Richter emphasized that even the so-called "safe and sane" fireworks approved by the state fire marshal and permitted in some localities are illegal in Los Angeles.

But beyond these, there are explosive devices commonly referred to as M-80s, M-100s or M-1000s, which are particularly dangerous.

Such devices vary from 1 to 12 inches in length and 1/2 to 2 inches in diameter and are generally red, pink or silver in color.

They are designed to function by igniting a fuse, but are highly sensitive to heat, shock or friction and can easily explode prematurely.

There have been more than 22,000 injuries in the last two years and 25 deaths related to the improper use of fireworks, according to the LAPD.

Acting Fire Chief John Callahan said that fireworks injuries and damage are down in Los Angeles in recent years, but that, still, there were 66 incidents and $48,000 in damage reported last Fourth of July.

Another problem is the firing of guns in celebration. Officials said they find that many people who fire weapons into the air seem to assume the bullets will go into orbit. Instead, they said, they come down, and often wound or kill.

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