LOS ANGELES - This weekend, fireworks killed at least three people across the country. Here in Southern California, a 42-year-old man from Montebello died after holding a high-powered mortar device when it went off while celebrating the July 4 holiday.
The Montebello man was rushed to the Beverly Community Hospital, where he was ultimately pronounced dead. The hospital's CEO Alice Cheng said they have been treating fireworks-related injuries all week, "with victims ranging from small children to adults. With injuries that can last a lifetime."
In nearby Azusa, where just last week, authorities conducted a huge raid, taking tons of illegal firefights off the streets. In spite of the confiscation, authorities still had to deal with the fires started by pyrotechnics shot from people's homes. On Glenlyn Drive, one person was taken to the hospital with serious burns to his face.
- Fireworks explosion seriously injures man in Azusa
- Azusa neighborhood evacuated after cache of illegal fireworks found in home
Even as we write this story from Montebello, people are setting off fireworks on the Fifth of July. Adding more work for law enforcement officers trying to catch people illegally lighting fireworks.
Under California's Health and Safety Code Fireworks Penalties, Section 12700(B), a person "in possession of unaltered dangerous fireworks in violation of the State Fireworks Law is punishable as a misdemeanor or a public offense" with fines ranging from $500 to more than $50,000, depending on the type, amount and local municipality.
The crime itself, however, is generally considered a misdemeanor, unless the incident ends in serious injury or damage. Here in Los Angeles County's unincorporated, for example, fines do not exceed $1,000.
Some cities, like Sacramento, are upping fines to as much as $5,000 after a first offense. But it remains difficult to convince cities to up fines and punishment dramatically as it is a move considered unpopular with voters.