50 tons of dangerous fireworks confiscated
Responding to community concerns, the City of El Monte made it a top priority to curb the use of dangerous illegal fireworks over the Fourth of July holiday.
“This year, we again banded together with our public safety officials in an effort to find real solutions to dealing with illegal fireworks within our City,” said El Monte Mayor Pro Tem Bart Patel, who chairs a special fireworks task force to address the problem. “While we wanted all of our residents and community members to enjoy the holiday, we also wanted to make sure that they were not putting others in danger. We couldn’t have done this without the support of the dedicated community members who volunteer as part of our task force.”
Working with the Los Angeles County Fire Department, the El Monte Police Department seized more than 50 tons of illegal fireworks during 30 sting operations in several area cities, resulting in 49 felony arrests.
Those caught using illegal fireworks faced a $1,000 fine, thanks to an ordinance passed by the City Council in 2013. This year, the El Monte Police Department cited 70 individuals with illegal firework citations. Last year, the Department issued 79 citations and has so far collected $32,800 in fines.
Over the past few years, there has been overwhelming resident concern over the use of illegal fireworks, which has led to serious injuries, property fires and an overburdened El Monte Police Department.
Efforts to educate the public on this new ordinance included a public service announcement and an anonymous fireworks phone line. In addition, school assemblies were conducted, street banners were placed on busy intersections and more than 20,000 fliers were distributed to residents.
“We wanted to make it clear that if you use or posses illegal fireworks in El Monte, you will receive a citation for $1,000,” El Monte Police Chief Steve Schuster said. “This was a zero-tolerance program because the safety of our community was our utmost priority.”
Enforcement on July 4 included 33 extra police officers and supervisors on patrol who were dedicated solely to issuing citations and making arrests on July 4 from 2 p.m. to midnight. The El Monte Police Department responded to 160 calls complaining about illegal fireworks.
Mayor Pro Tem Patel and the task force have made it a priority to set up a unique “El Monte Fireworks Model” that rids the community of dangerous illegal fireworks whilemaintaining family fun through the sale of “Safe and Sane” fireworks to celebrate Independence Day. This also allows the local nonprofits to continue fundraising opportunities.
Only fireworks marked “Safe and Sane” were legal and could only be used on July 3 and July 4 between 10 a.m. and 11 p.m.
According to the United States Fire Administration, in 2010, U.S. hospital emergency rooms treated an estimate 8,600 people for firework-related injuries, with the majority of the injuries occurring around the weeks surrounding the Fourth of July.
All illegal fireworks can be reported to the El Monte Police Department at (626) 580-2100. Anybody currently in possession of fireworks can turn them in, no questions asked, at any local fire station.