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Parched Los Angeles launches fireworks buyback program ahead of July 4

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July 4 fireworks explode over Los Angeles in 2020./AFP
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Jun 30, 2021 - 09:30 AM

LOS ANGELES — The drought-plagued city of Los Angeles announced a fireworks buyback program would be held Wednesday ahead of the US July 4 holiday, hoping to rein in the explosives’ illegal use in a setup similar to gun buyback programs.

The initiative will make it possible to anonymously hand in fireworks — whose sale and use are banned in the city — to the police in exchange for baseball tickets and other gifts.

The majority of California is under extreme drought conditions, according to the US Drought Monitor, creating parched vegetation and conditions ripe for wildfires.

“Last year with the pandemic and the necessity of canceling public-sanctioned fireworks shows, we saw a 72 percent increase in calls” concerning illegal fireworks, Los Angeles Police Department chief Michel Moore said.

In total more than 6,000 calls were received and more than four tons of fireworks were seized, he said.

The buyback program is targeting the San Fernando Valley north of Los Angeles in particular, an arid area susceptible to fires.

In addition to increased risk of fire and injury, fireworks launched by individuals also aggravate air pollution. According to air quality control authorities, the concentration of fine particles in the air on the night on July 4, 2020 was 70 percent higher than in previous years.

Moore warned that police would act against retailers and manufacturers who sell the products illegally.

Last week the Los Angeles city attorney ordered major internet platforms — including Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist — to remove posts selling fireworks within Los Angeles or face legal action.

The city of Pomona, east of Los Angeles, is offering a $500 reward for information leading to the arrest of people selling or storing fireworks illegally.

In neighboring Ontario, two people died last March when a large stock of fireworks exploded in the house they were in.

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