Public safety officials prepare for 4th festivities

Public safety officials are preparing for what is expected to be the busiest Fourth of July in three years.

"Our community relations deputies will be working in La Cañada Flintridge and La Crescenta, and deputies and volunteers have been assigned to the local La Crescenta Fireworks Assn. event," said Los Angeles County Sheriff's Capt. David Silversparre, commander of the Crescenta Valley Sheriff's Station.

Thousands of backyard barbecues will be complemented by local fireworks shows in La Crescenta, and at the Rose Bowl and Hansen Dam.

Jean Maluccio, secretary of the Crescenta Valley Fireworks Assn., said they are anticipating another sellout crowd Sunday. The show, running since 1989, annually attracts 3,000 people to the La Crescenta Elementary School field (tickets are $5 at the Crescenta Valley Chamber of Commerce office) and thousands more to the surrounding streets.

"It is incredible," Maluccio said. "On Foothill Boulevard, every parking lot looks like a tailgate party."

More than 2.5 million Southern Californians are expected to travel during the holiday weekend, a 19% increase from the previous year, according to the Auto Club of America. Cars will be the primary mode of transportation, with 2.23 million drivers hitting the road.

The California Highway Patrol has designated the Fourth of July weekend a maximum enforcement period and will deploy additional patrol cars to monitor local freeways, said Public Information Officer Ming Hsu. On Friday, the CHP will conduct a DUI checkpoint on Rosemead Boulevard just north of Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena.

Among the biggest hazards on July 4, Hsu said, are motorists who pause to watch fireworks shows.

"As people travel on the roadway, they end up stopping on the shoulder and watching the fireworks on the freeway," Hsu said. "We want to remind people that it is a violation to stop on the freeway, and you are creating a hazard."

Patrol cars often get tied up trying to clear stopped cars off the freeways, Hsu said.

"If they want to observe fireworks, get to a location where it is safe and off the freeway," Hsu said. "There are plenty of places to get a good view; don't be stopping on the freeway."

Los Angeles County and Glendale fire department officials are warning revelers to stay away from amateur fireworks and encouraging them to attend professionally produced shows.

"The use of fireworks not only causes fires, but it also results in thousands of severe injuries and burns every year," said Los Angeles County Fire Battalion Chief Bart Matta.

All fireworks, including "safe and sane" fireworks, are illegal in La Cañada Flintridge and La Crescenta, Matta said. The department has been working to prepare residents for fire season through its "Ready, Set, Go" fire prevention campaign, but the risk for a serious fire remains.

"We have fine fuels that we haven't had in the past, new grass, that is readily receptive to fires," Matta said.

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