Los Angeles City Atty. Mike Feuer said Friday that authorities had confiscated more than 1,000 pounds of fireworks, leading to criminal cases being filed ahead of the July 4 weekend.
The crackdown on the illegal sale and possession of fireworks in Los Angeles took place over the course of three inspections carried out by multiple city agencies, he said. All fireworks are illegal in Los Angeles, but their use account for an annual influx of hospital visits, officials said.
“The reason we are teaming up is that kids, 5 to 9, and teenagers are showing up in emergency rooms because fireworks are being sold in the jurisdiction of the city of Los Angeles and it’s against the law,” Feuer said at a news conference.
The crackdown is the first that involves multiple city agencies in an effort to directly target fireworks sales, he said.
Those accused of selling fireworks include Minh Nhut Lieu, 42, who allegedly stored more than 580 pounds of fireworks in his Los Angeles store New Great Wall, and Antelmo Garcia-Gurrero, 46, and Gregorio Del Carmen Lopez, 41, who face charges for possession and sale of fireworks.
Officials emphasized that even purchasing fireworks legally outside Los Angeles and transporting them into the city is illegal.
In addition to injuries and hospitalizations, fireworks are also considered a fire hazard and an explosive, said interim Los Angeles Fire Chief James Featherstone.
“Even so-called safe and sane fireworks are explosives and can be seriously damaging to the body,” he said.
Los Angeles police Det. Paul Robi of the city’s bomb squad, which is responsible for the disposal of illegal fireworks, highlighted the risk of improperly storing fireworks and not treating them as a combustion risk. His agency has dealt with exploding garages and, in one case, a house that was nearly leveled from a fireworks explosion, he said.
“If one goes, they are all going to go,” he said. “It’s a tremendous hazard.”
Despite the dangers, the financial incentive sustains an illegal market for fireworks, especially around the July 4 holiday.
Illegal fireworks merchants can purchase fireworks in neighboring states and sell them in California for "three or five times what they paid for them,” Robi said.
The crackdown will continue, officials said.