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Fireworks going off at different times of the night is no news story to many living in different Los Angeles neighborhoods. However, there has been a noticeable uptick of them, often louder and bigger than before. Why is that?
It has been speculated that since the COVID-19 lockdown, people have taken to firing off pyrotechnics to blow off some steam. Others say that canceled community firework events resulted in the sale of these in black markets.
And while the cause and source of this increase in fireworks is up for speculation, there’s one undeniable fact: Hospitals, like the trauma center and burn unit at the Los Angeles County + USC Medical Center, have already seen a surge in injuries caused by fireworks this year.
Staff at LAC+USC have found that fireworks injuries are 10 times more common in 2020 than they have been in previous years. Between Jan. 1, 2015, and June 24, 2020, the hospital treated a total of 43 patients with major fireworks injuries, 10 of those patients were from this year alone.
Of the patients studied and treated for major injuries, 80% needed to have a hand or finger amputated, 50% had eye injuries and 50% suffered ruptured eardrums. By July 1, eight more people had fireworks-related amputations at LAC+USC.
Matt Strickland, a surgical critical care and trauma fellows at LAC+USC who studied the aforementioned patients, was quoted saying: “We’re seeing a lot of people in the [emergency department] who aren’t even 20 years old yet. These losses are tragic, and they’re entirely preventable.”
It’s important to highlight that these numbers mentioned happened 10 days before the Fourth of July weekend — a day infamous in Los Angeles for being the region’s worst days for the city’s air quality and having the most firework- related burn injuries.
The Los Angeles Fire Department responded to thousands of emergency calls that Fourth of July Saturday and extinguished at least one large blaze that consumed half an apartment complex in Northridge. In this particular fire, 50 residents were evacuated, eight units were destroyed, and five people were injured. One fire in Baldwin Park left two men dead after “handling illegal fireworks that detonated unexpectedly.”
Reportedly, firefighters responded to 1,738 calls within a 24 hour period from 3 a.m. Saturday to 3 a.m. Sunday, as opposed to 1,300 in a 24-hour period. According to Inspector Sky Cornell, Saturday through early morning Sunday was the second busiest 24-hour period in L.A. County Fire Department history.
In Long Beach, Fire Department Capt. Jack Crabtree said firefighters responded to about 20 incidents on July 4th that were possibly fireworks related. About half of those calls were embers burning in trees. No structures burned in the city, and, luckily, no serious injuries were reported.
Similar to the days leading up to the Fourth of July celebrations, it is speculated that the jump in fire calls on this day was due to cities across the region canceling their fireworks shows. On this particular matter, Inspector Cornell weighed in: “We were hearing reports that many of the fireworks stands were selling out faster than they’ve ever sold out before.”