‘Celebrate safely’: safety and city officials on fireworks

Supervisor Kathryn Barger warns the public about the dangers of fireworks during a press conference on Wednesday. Lorena Mejia/The Signal

While there might be nothing that says “Fourth of July” like fireworks, government and safety officials are urging Santa Clarita Valley residents to leave the pyrotechnic displays to the experts. 

“Today, we stand here together to urge you to celebrate safely,” Mayor Marsha McLean said during a news conference held Wednesday at Los Angeles County Fire Station 126 in Valencia. 

She was joined by city staff and council members, L.A. County 5th District Supervisor Kathryn Barger, L.A. County Fire Chief Daily Osby, Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station Capt. Robert Lewis and representatives from the Grossman Burn Center, each of whom spoke on the dangers of illegal fireworks use. 

All fireworks, including those labeled “safe and sane,” are prohibited citywide under Santa Clarita municipal code, and officials reiterated why during the public conference. 

“By shooting off illegal fireworks in our city, you are putting others in your community at risk for danger and stress,” said McLean. “Please be considerate of your neighbors. When you release a firework, the unexpected loud noise can create anxiety, panic and fear for a veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder. The same anxiety can be felt by your pets, which can cause them to run away.”

Local animal shelters experience the busiest day of the year on July 5, as a result of runaway pets, she added. 

Fireworks can also cause serious injuries and pose a serious threat around children, according to Matt Young, a doctor at West Hills Hospital Burn Center. 

“The children are victims of this kind of tragedy about 35% of the time, and these are more important to children because they have smaller hands and smaller fingers,” he said. “The same amount of explosion will cause a much deeper burn and they can lose part of their hand or multiple fingers.” 

In 2018 alone, 13,000 people from around the nation were injured by fireworks, said Osby. Within L.A. County, firefighters responded to 52 fires related to pyrotechnics last year, 29 of which were set off by illegal fireworks, 19 from undetermined materials and four from “safe and sane” fireworks. Several hundred thousand dollars in property loss occurred and 36 people were injured, he added. 

An outfit burns after coming in contact with a sparkler. Lorena Mejia/The Signal

A reduction in fireworks use across the SCV has been seen, said Lewis. Last year, the SCV Sheriff’s Station cited six individuals, each of whom faced $500 in fines. A total of 65 pounds of fireworks were collected. 

He hopes a new illegal fireworks reporting system launched by the city will help law enforcement map out problem areas for the illicit activity. 

“We are on a ‘zero tolerance’ (policy) when it comes to law enforcement,” said Lewis. “Anyone who is caught lighting fireworks, possession of fireworks, will be cited for that offense. And to pay $500 or $600 just to light a firecracker is really not worth it when you can spend that on your families.” 

Residents are instead encouraged to observe professionally operated fireworks shows scheduled this year, including those at Westfield Valencia Town Center and Six Flags Magic Mountain, which can be viewed from various public parking lots. 

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