Fireworks Proponents Say Study Exonorates 'Safe and Sane' Devices

Times Staff Writer

Council members supporting an initiative to continue the sale of fireworks in Culver City say a survey of fireworks-related incidents in nearby cities demonstrates that legal fireworks are safe. The study, conducted by Fire Chief Michael Olson at the request of the City Council, found relatively few reports of injuries and fires.

"As I've said before, I believe that generally the majority (of injuries and fires) are caused by illegal fireworks," said Councilman Richard Brundo. "And every year, it gets less and less. There is no justification to ban 'safe and sane' fireworks."

The survey proves that Culver City has an "excellent safety record" on fireworks, said Councilman Richard M. Alexander. Brundo and Alexander support Proposition K, which would continue fireworks sales. Mayor Paul A. Netzel and council members Paul A. Jacobs and Jozelle Smith oppose the measure. The proposition is on the Nov. 4 ballot.

Two Injuries

Culver City this year had reports of two injuries, both minor burns, and two small brush fires near Ballona Creek that were blamed on fireworks, Olson said.

Olson, who said his department is on record against the sales, said the number of fireworks incidents was low this year because of the department's tough enforcement of laws against sales and use.

But Netzel said that the figures do not tell the whole story.

"There was a very sharp drop (in incidents)," Netzel said. "But the issue is much broader in scope. We have become one of the main fireworks suppliers (for other communities). People come all the way from the (San Fernando) Valley and elsewhere to buy fireworks from us. We have to be responsible to our neighboring communities."

The survey found that the city of Los Angeles, which bans all fireworks, saw the number of fireworks-related fires drop from 500 in 1983 to 59 in 1986, an 88% decrease.

In Los Angeles County territory, where fireworks are also banned, fires caused by fireworks decreased from 94 last year to 80 this year. Of those, 15 were traced to "safe and sane" fireworks. Figures on the number of injuries for the county will not be compiled until December.

According to the survey, there were a total of 26 fires and seven injuries in Culver City, Beverly Hills, El Segundo, Gardena, Hawthorne, Inglewood, Manhattan Beach, Redondo Beach and Torrance.

Inglewood reported the most of fires--14--and the single most serious incident, a roof blaze that caused $2,500 in damage. Officials said it was caused by a "base fountain," a form of "safe and sane" fireworks that was also associated with two injuries in Inglewood.

No injuries or fires attributed to fireworks were reported in Beverly Hills and Hawthorne.

Olson said the results of the survey did not affect his opposition to the sales of "safe and sane" fireworks.

"In the past there have been some major incidents caused by kids using either 'safe and sane' or illegal fireworks. When you come down to it, it's fire. They are playing with fire," he said. "I think that some of the illegal fireworks are much worse, but it's only a degree of being unsafe."

Olson said children can easily convert legal fireworks into illegal explosives, and that most harmless-looking varieties can be dangerous. "I've seen pinwheels explode. Little kids have gotten their fingers burned on 'snakes.' I don't consider any of it safe.

But, Olson added, "I don't pit myself against the city fathers. They regulate the city, and I enforce the laws."

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