As July 4 approaches, fireworks calls skyrocket

Each summer, complaints about illegal pyrotechnics spike in Los Angeles
City Life

A gif of fireworks explosions in Los Angeles


Independence Day is Thursday, but last week people across Los Angeles were hearing the telltale boom that precedes July 4: the cascade of illegal fireworks.


Each June complaints about home pyrotechnics in the city skyrocket. The calls carry into July.


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The year 2023 was typical: In most months there were fewer than 100 fireworks reports, according to publicly available Los Angeles Police Department Calls for Service data. In June the count shot up to 630 and in July there were more than 1,100 reports. The number fell back to double digits in August.


This year, through June 25, there were 353 fireworks reports.


Line chart of monthly fireworks complaints to LAPD Calls for Service, over 5 years


The noisiest year in recent memory was 2020. With the pandemic forcing the cancellation of most large, public pyrotechnics displays, people staged their own unsanctioned shows. That June and July there were more than 7,900 combined reports.


Last year the two-month total was below 2,000.


Bar chart of LAPD calls for service fireworks complaints in May and June over 5 years


Boom boom everywhere

Calls come in from across Los Angeles. In 2023, the LAPD’s Harbor Station fielded 218 fireworks complaints, more than any other station, according to LAPD data. The division patrols neighborhoods including San Pedro, Wilmington and Harbor Gateway.


The second-highest count was the 206 calls in the Northeast division. That covers communities such as Atwater Village, Echo Park and Glassell Park.


City leaders use a variety of tools to prevent the displays. On June 22, District 7 Councilmember Monica Rodriguez held her annual fireworks buybank event in a park in Mission Hills. 


People could turn in fireworks anonymously. At the Police Commission meeting on June 25, LAPD Interim Chief Dominic Choi stated, “We collected over 254 pounds of illegal fireworks which were exchanged for gift cards, Dodger tickets and other gifts.”


The state Fire Marshal designates certain fireworks as “Safe & Sane,” and these bear a special seal. Although some municipalities allow them, Los Angeles does not. 


“As a reminder, all fireworks, even the Safe & Sane fireworks, are illegal in the city of Los Angeles,” Choi said. 


​​The laws do little to halt the practice of people setting off fireworks in back yards, parks and even the streets. Although neighbors complain and animal experts warn of the fear this can instill in pets, the practice continues. Law enforcement officials in the past have said that many people buy fireworks in other states, then drive back to Los Angeles to sell their wares.


This can have tragic repercussions. In an infamous June 2021 incident, the LAPD responded to a call of illegal fireworks in South Los Angeles. The department’s bomb squad, believing the fireworks were too unstable to move, sought to ignite some in an armored vehicle. But they miscalculated the weight of the explosives; the blast injured 17 people and damaged dozens of homes. 


Most incidents go smoothly. Just last week, police in the small city of Gardena discovered more than 75 tons of illegal fireworks in a warehouse. Other agencies, including CalFire, were called in to help. 


At a news conference, Gardena Police Lt. Christopher Cuff said the street value of the fireworks was $7 million to $10 million. He added that three people were arrested. 


Last June the LAPD seized and disposed of 38,000 pounds of illegal fireworks in South Los Angeles. Two people were arrested.


At the Police Commission meeting Choi urged Angelenos to report illegal fireworks caches. The complaints can be made online and anonymously.


How we did it: We examined data on LAPD calls for service involving fireworks from Jan. 1, 2019–June 25, 2024. Service calls are a record of police activity that are initiated either from calls coming into 911 and other numbers, or situations officers respond to while on patrol.


Interested in our data or have questions? Email