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Skip the fines and fires caused by illegal shows. L.A. has plenty of legal fireworks displays

Skip the fines and fires caused by illegal shows. L.A. has plenty of legal fireworks displays
Surrounded by smoke clouds from fireworks, Costa Mesa Police Officer Trevor Jones examines a roman candle on July 4, 2017. (Times Community News)

Fireworks are illegal in Los Angeles.

But that hasn’t stopped city residents from putting on a mesmerizing — yet frightening to many — light show after the sun sets on the Fourth of July.

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The illicit fireworks displays have become memes and generated both fascination and anger. (This time lapse from Mt. Wilson give you a sense of it, but does not include the palm trees that inevitably catch on fire).

Los Angeles Police Department data show that calls about illegal fireworks have increased sharply in the last few years.

People gather downtown to watch L.A.'s official, and legal, fireworks show at City Hall.
People gather downtown to watch L.A.'s official, and legal, fireworks show at City Hall. (Los Angeles Times)

Here’s a primer on the show ahead:

Q: How much have fireworks complaints increased?

The number of calls to the LAPD about illegal fireworks jumped from 5,532 in 2013 to 8,204 in 2017, according to a report prepared this year by the chief legislative analyst for Los Angeles data.

The report said the calls were most prevalent in the Hollenbeck, Harbor, Northeast and Mission police station areas.

The number of fire calls related to fireworks in L.A. increased from 22 in 2013 to 28 in 2017, the report said.

The study noted that it’s often difficult to find the culprits because the calls don’t give the exact location where the fireworks were set off. Moreover, those who set the fireworks off often run from the scene before police arrive.

Q: Why are there so many fireworks?

Authorities said the region has long had easy access to illegal fireworks through Mexico and the ports. Additionally, while many cities like L.A. ban all fireworks, some cities allow the sale of “safe and sane” fireworks.

“Despite being illegal, dangerous fireworks are easily accessible, as they can be purchased in neighboring states and transported into California, where they can be sold for a significant profit. Further, the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles are major entry points for imported goods from Asia, where a majority of fireworks are manufactured. This creates a situation where dangerous fireworks meant for legal markets in other States can end up on the streets of California,” the city report said.

Q: What are police doing?

Authorities across the region are vowing to crack down on illegal fireworks.

Fireworks not approved by the state, including cherry bombs, bottle rockets, firecrackers and aerial shells, are illegal to possess, store, use or transport in California. Doing so is punishable by a $1,000 fine and jail time. Selling illegal fireworks and possessing more than 100 pounds of them is a felony.

Costa Mesa, for example, is one of the cities that allow sales of “safe and sane” fireworks, mainly, those that don’t leave the ground or explode in the air. But police will be out in force looking for the illegal ones.

In the last two weeks, Costa Mesa detectives have seized 1,300 pounds of illegal fireworks, officials said.

Last year, Costa Mesa detectives launched undercover operations to buy illegal fireworks from people selling them in the city. More than 2,100 pounds were seized in the weeks before Independence Day.

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In recent years, police and fire officials also have passed out door hangers and used social media to try to educate people about the difference between legal and illegal fireworks.

Authorities are using similar tactics this year and plan to continue seizing illegal fireworks through Wednesday, officials said.

In 2017, Costa Mesa officers issued 80 citations on allegations of fireworks-related offenses, up from 79 in 2016 and 25 in 2015, according to Police Department data. Last year, the department stopped using noncriminal, civil citations to try to deter fireworks activity and hammered suspects with criminal citations.

Data show the department received fewer calls last year about fireworks, with 703. The number of complaints had been on the rise since 2013, peaking at 1,009 in 2016.

“The discharge of illegal fireworks is dangerous and creates myriad concerns within our community,” said Costa Mesa Police Capt. Mark Manley. “We saw an increase in enforcement activity and a decrease in firework-related calls for service last year, which is a promising trend we would like to see continue this year.”

Many Costa Mesa residents have complained about widespread use of banned fireworks, with some saying their neighborhoods sound like war zones around the holiday. Manley said the department has identified neighborhoods that in previous years generated an “above average” number of calls for service about fireworks.

“We will be focusing zero-tolerance efforts, first and foremost, on those neighborhoods in a hope to curb illegal firework activity and lessen the overall impact on everyone,” he said.

Where are some place to watch legal fireworks shows?

Downtown L.A.

Grand Park + the Music Center’s 4th of July Block Party

Food trucks, live music, fireworks and free admission at Grand Park. 3 to 9:30 p.m. grandparkla.org

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Culver City

Annual 4th of July Fireworks Show at West Los Angeles College

Food trucks, picnicking (coolers OK but no alcohol permitted), games, live music and fireworks on the college grounds. Gates open 4 p.m., admission $5, children under 5 free. Pedestrians enter from Overland Boulevard only, cars from Jefferson Boulevard. www.wlac.edu

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Echo Park

Patriots Night at Dodger Stadium on July 3 & 4

Watch the Dodgers play the Pittsburgh Pirates before a huge fireworks display. Tickets start at $32. Game starts at 7:10 p.m. on July 3 and 5:10 p.m. July 4. mlb.com/dodgers

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Exposition Park

4th of July Community Festival & Fireworks Show

L.A. City Councilman Curren D. Price Jr. presents this free event with live music, kid-oriented activities, “delectable” food and a fireworks show on the south lawn of Exposition Park. 11 a.m.to 10 p.m.; fireworks begin at 9. lacoliseum.com

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Hollywood

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Footloose (1984) + Fireworks at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery

Cinespia’s annual summer movie-thon at the iconic cemetery features the 1984 Herbert Ross classic dance movie on July 4, plus room for picnicking, beer and wine and fireworks at 6,000 Santa Monica Blvd. $35, gates open at 7:15 p.m., movie starts at 9 p.m., fireworks follow. cinespia.org

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Hollywood Hills

July 4th Fireworks Spectacular at the Hollywood Bowl

Fireworks, fresh air, and music by the Go-Go’s, Los Angeles Philharmonic and the U.S. Air Force Band of the Golden West at the Hollywood Bowl July 3 and 4. 7:30 p.m. Nosebleed tickets start at $25 adults, $12.50 for children, prices then range up to $278. hollywoodbowl.com

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Huntington Beach

4th of July Parade and Fireworks

If you like sand with your pyrotechnics and “the largest Independence Day parade west of the Mississippi River,” head to Orange County’s Huntington Beach. The parade starts at 10 a.m., fireworks from the Huntington Beach Pier start at 9 p.m., with live entertainment, food and sunbathing in between. Viewing is free unless you want bleacher seats for the parade ($15) or fireworks ($10). surfcityusa.com

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Long Beach

All American Fourth of July on the Queen Mary

You can celebrate America’s Independence Day aboard a ship named after the wife of a British king, now famously docked in Long Beach. Family-oriented crafts and games, live entertainment, special tours, a “4-D patriotic theatrical movie” and, of course, fireworks at the end. 2 to 10 p.m. Buy tickets before July 4 to save $15 per admission, pre-July 4 prices are $44 ages 12+, $24 ages 4-11, children 3 and under free. queenmary.com

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July 4th Late Night & BBQ at the at Aquarium at the Pacific

Eat hearty (all-beef hot dogs, marinated chicken legs and thighs and beef brisket “with rosemary accents,” plus fixin’s like watermelon arugula salad and roasted corn on the cob), tour the aquarium (until 10 p.m.) and watch the Queen Mary’s fireworks. Gates open at 5 p.m. $64 for adults, $28 children 3-11. Fireworks only, $14.95. 100 Aquarium Way at Shoreline Drive in Long Beach. aquariumofpacific.org

Marina del Rey

Fourth of July fireworks

Fireworks over the ocean with synchronized music at Burton Chace Park or Fisherman’s Village in Marina del Rey. Or ride your bike on the Ballona Creek Bike Path and listen on radio station KXLU 88.9 FM. Fireworks start at 9 but local street closures start at 1 p.m. so come early, bring a bike and spend the day. visitmarinadelrey.com

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Pacific Palisades

Fourth of July Parade, Music and Fireworks

Skydivers will drop from above at 1:50 p.m. to start the free 70th Anniversary Palisades Parade on Sunset Boulevard between Via de la Paz and Drummond Street. The celebration continues at Palisades Charter High School at 4 p.m., with food trucks, live music and fireworks at 9 p.m. $10. palisades4th.com

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Pasadena

92nd annual AmericaFest at the Rose Bowl

Doors open at 5:30 p.m., performances — including “American Idol” winner Maddie Poppe, and Michael Knights’ Ultimate Michael Jackson Tribute Sing-A-Long — start at 7 and the fireworks begin at 9 p.m. 1001 Rose Bowl Drive. Tickets start at $15. rosebowlstadium.com

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Pomona

Red, White and BOOM!

For its 32nd annual fireworks spectacular, the Fairplex is bringing in monster trucks, motocross and a gut-busting buffet to the L.A. County Fairgrounds in Pomona? Gates open at 5 p.m., so you can mingle with the monster trucks and even take a ride ($10). Admission $18.50 to $27.50; buffet tickets are extra, starting at $28 for children and $50 for adults. fairplex.com

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Riverside

Fourth of July fireworks shows

Riverside offers two free fireworks shows at 9 p.m., one from La Sierra Park, 5215 La Sierra Ave., in the southwest section of the city, and the traditional show from the top of Mt. Rubidoux, visible from any clear vantage point in the northeast part of the city (with synchronized music on KOLA 99.9 FM). The Evergreen Memorial Historic Cemetery, at 14th and Pine Streets, near the base of Mt. Rubidoux, offers food vendors, kids activities and tours of the graves of Riverside’s founders along with front-row seating to the fireworks. 5 to 9:30 p.m. Tickets $5, children 2 and under free. evergreen-cemetery.info, riversideca.gov/calendar

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Ventura

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Street Fair, Fireworks Show & Family Picnic

By day, there’s the free Pushem-Pullem Parade for bike and wagons at 9:30 a.m., and the 43rd annual Street Fair in the Downtown Cultural District with live music, a kid play zone and vendors selling food and handmade goods. Then the gates open at 5 p.m. for the Ventura Rotary Club’s 24th Annual Fireworks Show and Family Picnic at the Ventura College Athletic Fields. Admission online includes a fee, plus $6 adults/$4 children ages 4 to 12. Family passes, only available online, start at $20. Pay $2 more at the door cityofventura.ca.gov, venturafireworks.com

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