Las Vegas Sun

July 24, 2019

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Valley officials say reduction in illegal fireworks ‘starts with culture’

Illegal Fireworks

Steve Marcus

Seized illegal fireworks are displayed at Clark County Fire Station 22 Thursday, July 5, 2018. The county seized an estimated 2,100 pounds of illegal fireworks over the July Fourth holiday, said Amanda Wildermuth, a county fire inspector. Las Vegas seized about the same amount or more, said city fire inspector Scott Thompson.

Illegal Fireworks

Metro Police Capt. Todd Raybuck holds up a map during a news conference on illegal fireworks at Clark County Fire Station 22 Thursday, July 5, 2018. The map shows the location of illegal fireworks complaints over the July 4th holiday. Launch slideshow »

In response to record reports to local law enforcement and all-time-high amounts of illegal fireworks seized for the July Fourth holiday, valley officials Thursday urged local residents to consider the risks of using the pyrotechnic devices for their leisure.

The first “You Light It, We Write It” initiative to discourage the use of illegal fireworks was up against “wall-to-wall” shows of such blasts Wednesday night, said representatives from Metro Police, the city of Las Vegas, and fire rescue departments for both the city and Clark County. The use of illegal fireworks — defined as those that leave the ground, explode or shoot blasts beyond 10 feet — not only endangers users but presents fire hazards and health risks for neighbors with PSTD, newborn children and animals.

“I would love to tell you our campaign was successful,” Metro Capt. Todd Raybuck said. “But we have a long way to go.”

Raybuck said July 4 annually results in the 24-hour period with the most calls coming to Metro’s non-emergency line than any other day of the year. Police fielded 2,100 calls to 311 Wednesday night, despite directing all fireworks complaints to Clark County’s website.

Tim Szymanski, spokesman of Las Vegas Fire and Rescue, said last night’s show of illegal fireworks was “the worst” he had seen in 22 years as a member of the department. While no injuries were reported and no city residents were displaced, Szymanski said the city fire department responded to 173 calls — 100 more than July 4, 2017.

Clark County Fire Inspector Amanda Wildermuth said county officials seized 2,100 pounds of illegal fireworks valued at over $135,000 in response to more than 20,000 complaints on the “ISpy” website. Of 405 fire calls made to county authorities, most illegal firework-related blazes were inflicted on palm trees, bushes, grass or other natural shrubbery. Wildermuth did not provide numbers on injuries or number of people displaced from their homes Wednesday night.

Fifty citations were issued and only one arrest made, as authorities “couldn’t possibly get to all of the people involved,” Raybuck said. Citing individual fireworks users is often difficult for authorities because many illegal fireworks parties have a group of people setting them off. Other users of illegal fireworks escape into their homes upon seeing authorities headed their way, he said.

Fixing the problem and providing a safe holiday for all to enjoy “starts with culture,” Raybuck said. He urged valley residents to educate themselves not only on the physical harm such blasts can cause, but the inconvenience they present to neighbors.

“This is not about the number of tickets we write,” he said. “We can no longer accept illegal fireworks as just part of the Fourth of July.”