While the COVID-19 pandemic canceled most 4th of July gatherings – from barbecues to pool parties and neighborhood parades — police departments still remained busy on America’s birthday, heading out to calls as firework use peaked over the holiday weekend.
The numbers have come in and police departments saw an increase in calls as residents stayed home and opted to celebrate on their own.
In Pasadena, the police department began to get calls reporting firework use weeks before the holiday weekend. Pasadena has a zero tolerance enforcement policy for fireworks, and the city’s firefighters and police partnered together for a special fireworks enforcement over the holiday weekend.
The department received more calls than law enforcement officials expected, according to Lt. Bill Grisafe.
“For the 4th of July, we had as many firework calls on that one day than we had for the entire month of July the two previous years,” said Lt. Grisafe, who pointed out in 2018, the Pasadena PD had 553 calls and in 2019 they had 528.
“From July 1 to 5 we had 546 calls for service. For the year, we are already at almost 1,400 calls for service related to fireworks,” he said.
In the City of Santa Ana, where Safe & Sane fireworks are legal, police officers were inundated with calls for service through the holiday weekend.
According to Santa Ana Corporal Anthony Bertagna, the city received 1,892 calls for service over the holiday weekend and of those only 74 were not related to fireworks.
In comparison, the police department received 395 calls in 2018 and 757 in 2019.
Santa Ana officers seized 43,838 pieces of fireworks this year, compared to 6,375 in 2019 and 5,863 in 2018.
The small community of La Habra had a 20 percent increase in calls for service over the holiday weekend, but also noted that firework usage had been increasing since March.
“In 2019 we received 122 calls for fireworks. In 2020 we received 147, so (we saw) a small uptick of 25 calls but it is a 20 percent increase from last year,” La Habra Lt. Dan Henderson said. “Overall, we saw a large increase in fireworks calls from mid-March to July 4th, as did all of Orange County. (There were) no injuries reported due to fireworks and no confirmed fires due to fireworks this year.”
Katrina Chavez, who was managing a fireworks booth in Huntington Beach over the holiday weekend, said the purchase of Safe & Sane fireworks was steady as locals stopped by looking for a bit of sparkle to celebrate.
“I’ve seen a lot of people really wanting to celebrate their independence,” Chavez said. “The camaraderie is there … I do see people staying away … keeping their distance. But people want to celebrate and they will. The Fourth of July is a really big holiday, and the American people want to celebrate their freedom. I think people are trying to show their patriotism.”