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Authorities Seize 7 Tons of Illegal Fireworks

June 16, 2004|Zeke Minaya | Times Staff Writer

Police found more than seven tons of illegal fireworks in a Chinatown storage building Tuesday and evacuated four city blocks.

The fireworks, which included M-80s, Roman candles and bottle rockets, were packed in boxes that were stacked "from floor to ceiling" in rooms on two floors of of a building in the 800 block of North Spring Street, said Los Angeles Fire Department Battalion Chief Ralph Terrazas. Investigators said the fireworks were imported from China.

Police were tipped by a man described as a transient who had been hired to arrange the stockpile and remove the warning labels from the boxes, Terrazas said.

Police evacuated 250 people from the area just after noon and closed several streets for hours, snarling rush hour traffic.

Police Capt. Bill Wick said heat or a change in humidity could have caused an explosion.

The LAPD bomb squad will dispose of the confiscated cache, police said.

Investigators looking through the rest of the nine-story building found 176 cases of cigarettes, containing 176,000 packs, that appeared to be untaxed contraband.

Investigators said that room was rented by a different tenant.

Police were looking for the tenants of both storage areas.

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