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Fireworks Ordinance 2.0: City Doubles Down on Landlords

Published on Tuesday, July 2, 2019 | 4:47 am
A demonstration outside the Rose Bowl on July 1, 2019 used a pumpkin to demonstrate the explosive power and dangers of fireworks to the human body. Photo by James Carbone.

Last year the City of Pasadena passed a municipal code amendment holding landlords responsible for their tenants’ illegal use of fireworks on their properties in Pasadena and there’s nothing changed about its approach this year.

“We need homeowners and apartment building owners to take an aggressive stance in prohibiting their renters, or people that lease from them, from just freely walking in front of their properties and then shooting off fireworks,” explained City spokeswoman Lisa Derderian.

The City amended the code in 2018, just prior to the July 4, leaving property owners on the hook for what their tenants did with fireworks on their land. Offending tenants, of course, were also to be cited.

The ordinance made it easier to prosecute fireworks-related offenses and demand payment for the cost associated with safe disposal of the explosive contraband seized.

Pasadena police hand confiscated fireworks to a Pasadena Fire Department arson investigator in this file photo.

“We issued 36 administrative citations (all of) last year,” said Pasadena Fire Department Battalion Chief Wendell Eaton. “There were one or two situations where landlords were able to demonstrate they had put out an informational flyer to their tenants telling them that fireworks were not allowed and that they had taken some practical measures to prevent their usage. They were not held responsible.”

Like fireworks themselves, the ordinance is not child’s play.

“Landlords can be fined,” said Derderian, “depending on the amount of fireworks they have. It’s a very expensive fine and if we find fireworks inside a vehicle, it can be impounded. Even if they have young kids around and they’re using explosives they can be charged with negligence. So there’s several different factors that come into play.”

In 2018, six teams of two officers in marked vehicles patrolled the city from 5:30 p.m. on July 4 to 3 a.m. on July 5, responding to 207 calls and issuing 23 citations as compared to 145 the year before.

Derderian noted that there were no fireworks-related injuries during the 2018 Fourth of July cycle and that, on a public safety basis, the ordinance can be considered to have achieved a level of success.

According to a post-Fourth report issued in July 2018, emergency responses on July 4 and July 5 were the lowest in over six years, dropping 27 percent from 54 in 2017 to 39 in 2018.

Similarly, some 50 pounds of fireworks were confiscated in 2018, as compared to the 86 pounds collected the year before.

Success, of course, is relative. There’s no stopping the detonation of fireworks in the city where they are illegal, but public safety is the ultimate goal of any such effort.

Eaton said the Fire Department is doing public education in the lead-up to July 4.  It has community volunteers and partners in the Pasadena Police Department canvassing neighborhoods and passing out flyers about the illegality and dangers of fireworks.

“Any time we get a complaint through the Citizens Service Center,” he explained, “we  identify the neighborhood and send volunteers out to educate. Then we have joint patrols of police officers and arson investigators go out, too. The challenge is that, by the time they hear a pop and pick up the phone and some is sent out, the perpetrators are long gone.”

Americans do love their gunpowder. “We’ve already had over 30 fireworks complaints leading up to the Fourth of July,” said Derderian.

For those heading to AmericaFest at the Rose Bowl, Derderian suggested they leave their own fireworks at home and enjoy those being put on safely at the venue.

“We’ll have enforcement teams around the Rose Bowl manning checkpoints leading in,” Derderian said. “So we’ll ask if you have any fireworks in your car that you want to give up now because if you’re caught with them once you get inside you could get fined or have your car impounded or, depending on the amount you have, be arrested.”

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