4th of July fire breaks out in L.A. River [updated]

Photo courtesy Jade

Photo courtesy Jade

ELYSIAN VALLEY — A fire that one witness said was ignited by skyrockets scorched an approximately half-acre of brush and trees in the L.A. River on Monday night.

LAFD spokeswoman Erik Scott said there were no reports of injuries from the blaze that broke out in the river channel at about 11 p.m. near the 2400 block of Meadowvale Avenue. He had no information about the cause of the fire. But one woman who was with friends on the edge of the river channel watching fireworks in the distance said the fire began after a group of teenagers began firing skyrockets in the direction of her group.

“The teenagers were setting off their fireworks directly at us on purpose,” said the woman named Jade. “They set off three shots aimed at me and my friends. We had to drop to the ground to avoid being hit. What they did hit was a huge palm tree, which then ignited and caused a brush fire.”

She said it took firefighters, who arrived from both sides of the river, about 30 minutes to put out the blaze, which attracted a large crowd of residents to the river path.

Update at 12:28 pm: The LAFD said it responded to 42 fires across the city related to fireworks between midnight on the 4th of July and 8 a.m. today. The number of fires was comparable to previous years.

“At least 6 of those incidents included various injuries to extremities, eyes, and burns,” said an LAFD update.

A photo posted by Christopher (@cpm213) on

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  1. I hate the Echo Park 4th of July backyard fireworks tradition.

    I’ve lived here since the early aughts, and it’s not as bad as it used to be –
    But Its’ still a cross your fingers nightmare, hoping not to have your house catch on fire
    From some neighborhood idiots illegal artillery. (Not to mention the possibility of a magic bullet coming through a window/wall with my name on it.)

    Attention Echo Park Neighbors – please stop taking your stupid pills on the 4th.
    Your fireworks aren’t festive . You don’t have a respected tradition – your’re committing a crime.
    You cause vandalism (noise) and Possible arson (setting the hood ablaze) every time you
    and your cro-mag brain buddies launch Your firebombs.

    To All Echo Park Backyard Fireworks Launching Jerks: Grow up and stop endangering your neighbors property & peace of mind. You are irresponsible potential fire starting, body injury maiming (news flash jerks -people get blinded and lose limbs from your bombs). -Criminals. Show some respect for the neighborhood and your neighbors.

    • Thank you, Chauncy. Last night in Echo Park was like a war zone, and I don’t exaggerate. I stayed insude with my pets except for few minutes on sidewalk. During that time there were fireworks totally encircling our home, those that could be seen and those heard. It was frightening, more than ever because as you say we keep fearing our house will catch fire. Our neighbors set fire to trees almost directly across street from us on past New Year’s Eve, the wind was blowing and they set off huge rockets.

      I will never understand either the idiocy of those setting these illegal fireworks off, or the negligence and lack of concern shown by LAPD, who do nothing to stop them. In past I’ve tried calling for help, but this year just gave up; that seems to be what they wish to achieve. Not just the officers, themselves, but Beck, Garcetti and other politicians who will do nothing to help us with this.

  2. I’m sure at least half of the people launching fireworks read this post and won’t do it again next year lol

    • We should be so lucky. I share your skepticism but hopefully someone in local office sees this irritation and takes some action. I have also copied my comment into an email for Garcetti’s office.

  3. So why won’t the LAPD enforce the law against fireworks? It doesn’t seem that hard to do: just allocate some extra personnel for the 4th. Does the City Council not care that the law is so heavily flouted? Or do they figure they have to let Angelenos blow off some steam lest they get too worked up about traffic, rent/housing prices, etc.? Jeez… whether it’s fireworks, the umpteenth superhero/armageddon movie, or bombing yet another foreign country, Americans sure do love explosions.

    • SquiggleySpooch

      There’s no money to be made in arresting these fools that are setting off the fireworks. They’d rather be giving out $300 rolling stop sign tickets than enforce the fireworks law.

      • Well, there is the potential of a $1000 fine (as well as six months in jail) for possession or use of fireworks (LAMC Secs. 57.5608.1.2 and, which is a misdemeanor. I suppose the argument could be made that the city might spend more money prosecuting such a case than it makes back on the fine. If that’s so, perhaps a violation might be changed to a ticket-able infraction? That way, it goes through a more streamlined process, and the city collects money from fines to pay for enforcement without having to allocate resources to prosecutors.

        • That is an excellent idea. They would raise so much money for the city if they gave out tickets for illegal fireworks. It could really incentivize the local politicians to enforce it if this were a thing.

        • Yes, make it a ticket for use. Widely publicizing the ticketing would help too. I’m sure the LAFD would get behind it.

  4. I have to agree with Chauncey and Samakand. I drove past a bunch of stupid teenagers last night who were lighting off bottle rockets in the middle of Alessandro, right in the path of oncoming traffic. Cars were pulling over to avoid driving over the damn things. When I called the 911, I was on hold for 36 minutes!!! Good thing there wasn’t an accident with someone bleeding out, FFS.

    These little snots were firing off their fireworks less than 50 feet from where there was a massive fire less than a month ago that started on Silver Ridge Avenue, that nearly consumed my entire street. LAFD deployed over 200 firefighters to put out that blaze. That part of Echo Park/Silverlake has Red Flag signs on most of the streets, as it is considered a very high fire risk area. Anyone living there knows that, and it doesn’t take a whole lot of brains to look around and see all the dry brush on so many of the hillside properties. Not everybody does their brush clearance at the same time, and there are a few huge abandoned lots, so nobody is clearing those.

    Sorry, but seeing things like this makes me wish those Purge movies were based on a real National day. I don’t care how that sounds. If someone is going to take my safety into their hands because they are reckless and stupid, they don’t deserve the same courtesies I would extend to people who aren’t trying to burn my house and neighborhood down. I’m not saying they deserve to be shot, but after seeing what went down last night, I’d shake the hand of anyone who dispensed a swift kick of unforgettable vigilante justice to them. The police and fire departments obviously can’t be bothered to enforce the fireworks laws.

    Then on Verdant street in Atwater Village, some inconsiderate fools were setting off fireworks nonstop for three hours straight, from 8pm – 11pm. I was at the Costco center, and you could see the fireworks from all the way over there. I went over to check it out because I couldn’t believe it was going on for so long.. These were set off right in the middle of an equestrian community where there are a whole bunch of horse stables. I can’t imagine the horses stabled there were happy about the constant explosions, but beyond that, most of these facilities store hay on the premises, which is extremely flammable. Where were the police and LAFD for those offenders, too? Those fireworks were visible from blocks away, and put on a massive lightshow.

    The city needs to get its act together about this yearly scourge. It’s unsafe and obnoxious, and when people are allowed to fire off rockets at cars and people (like in the article above, which is infuriating to read), what does that teach them about what is and isn’t acceptable? Oh that’s right, absolutely nothing. Get on it Eric Garcetti. I’m not impressed over here, and I vote.

  5. Apparently there is some law in New York City where you can turn in your irresponsible neighbors and get a $1000 reward. I’d like to see something like that put in here in my highly flammable neighborhood. I also emailed this to Garcetti’s office. It’s one thing to rant on a blog, but if anyone else is as annoyed as I am by people endangering our neighborhoods, please write your local politicians and make yourselves heard!

    • I’m ill and can’t get out much, but I worked hard by phone and emails before 4th of July 2015 to try and get support from LAPD, Garcetti, Cedillo and O’Farrell, asking that LAPD respond to illegal fireworks calls and take action, at least fining people setting them off. I heard back only from Cedillo’s office via email.

      Received call back from LAPD officer on the fourth in response to my calls to non-emergency number. He said the same thing an LAPD desk officer told me; can’t keep up with the fireworks, all over every street here in Echo Park, not enough officers to handle. “It’s been the same for the fifteen years I’ve lived in L.A.” per one. Well, yes. No Consequences = No Change.

      This past June a huge firework was set off across our alley, just under my window. I called non-emergency police number at 10:35 pm and again at 11:00. On the second call I gave operator the definite address in alley; operator noted they had received another call about this. No police came. I called Rampart desk and a nice officer said they get diverted to other calls and there are not enough officers to cover.

      The 4th of July comes regularly every year and enforcement should be planned for. Easy enough to find the culprits…fine or arrest ’em. When these ignoramuses see that action will be taken the number of illegal fireworks should at least decrease if not stop. Maybe the officers who have been diverted to South LA could come to Northeast L.A. for a night?

      I applaud anyone who tries to go through channels and hope you will achieve positive change.

      • Thank you for doing all that! So frustrating. I have seen more posts than ever on Facebook this year about people being upset about illegal fireworks in their neighborhoods too. Was there some kind of an increase this year? I don’t remember it ever being so bad in all the 16 years I’ve lived in LA.

        I completely agree about the regularity of this– it’s not like July 4th suddenly takes us by surprise every year! It should definitely be planned for. Enough of this. I don’t want my street and house burned down because the LAPD and city can’t get it together to enforce the laws.

        • Thanks MiniFran for all your efforts. I think pressure on the city council, to give law enforcement the tools they need to fine fireworks offenders is the only reasonable solution. Stupid people can’t take Smart Pills. Those who are the Primary violators, don’t care about other people’s property or peace of mind. & Bongo, In my section of EP, it used to be -A Lot Worse-. The locals would start days ahead of time, and go days after the 4th. And on the 4th -it was insane. Probably 3/4 times worse. While it’s still intolerable, in my opinion, one of the upsides of gentrification is many of these arsonists can’t afford to live here anymore.

          • Re-election is next year for city council, isn’t it? Perhaps it’s time to put pressure on candidates to come out with a concrete plan to address the mayhem, as opposed to the status quo of sitting back and saying there’s nothing that can be done. And local dog/cat rescue organizations with large followings might be able to help in putting a petition together for Garcetti. July 4 is the worst strain on city shelters year after year. Wouldn’t it be nice if instead of spending city $$ putting animals down to make room for spooked runaways, that money went toward, say, a patrol car handing out fireworks citations? And preventing overcrowded shelters and massive fires in the first place (don’t those all require resources, of which our city claims to be lacking?) Or contract out LADOT for citations – there’s more than enough resources there to ensure no one in the city goes a minute over a meter without a $70 citation.

  6. *Turn them in for setting off illegal fireworks.

    • After waiting on hold for even the non-emergency line you will be told they can’t do anything about illegal fireworks.

  7. Our LAFD station lacks an actual engine...

    The only thing more staggering than the sheer amount of fireworks going off in a brush fire zone last night, is the fact that 1. O’Farrell’s office sent out emails including incorrect contact numbers to SMS the LAPD to report fireworks. If you SMS the correct number, they just automessage you to call the non-emergency LAPD number, which then takes over a half hour to get through. 2. If you do actually get through to LAPD, it’s fruitless. The lead officer for our area (who is lovely, and is only taking her direction from her own bosses), said straight out that LAPD has no intention of enforcing the ban on illegal fireworks, either on or before/after the 4th. 3. Let’s say a fire does break out in our brush fire zone. According to a (again, very kind and helpful) captain of our local LAFD station (for EP), the station lacks a fire engine (they have a truck, but not an engine). Despite a significant amount of fire fatalities in the last year in our district, he said they are in need of an actual fire engine and are extremely under staffed and under-resourced. Apparently last July 4th wkend they were responding to one fire when a second fire broke out, and were unable to get to the second fire. Imagine if a fire were to break out near the tinder-box Elysian Park during a packed Dodger Game? (All this not to even mention the lost and traumatized pets, overcrowded shelters, and vets with PTSD). LAPD ever responding to these massive fireworks seems like an uphill battle, but it’s at least worth contacting your Councilmember to petition for an engine for our local station.

    • Are you talking about SLO Gina Chovan? She is amazing, but she can only do so much. I hadn’t thought of writing to her. I think that all of us who are this angry should start attending local council meetings and making our voices heard. It’s a matter of time before a flat-out disaster happens because of not enforcing the laws, and it is just going to happen all over again next year.

      I really like the idea of making it a ticketable offense– that would probably raise enough in one night to justify any additional personnel they needed to patrol the neighborhoods and ensure our physical safety. All of Elysian Park is indeed a tinder box. It’s mind-blowing that anyone would think it’s okay to set off commercial-grade fireworks in that kind of an environment.

  8. Chester Stinkbottom

    Y’all need rocket mortars in your moufs.

  9. I LOVE the NELA tradition of 4th of July backyard fireworks as do many newbies and assorted transplants that I noticed as we looked for panoramic lookouts to enjoy the spectacle. Btw, the recent 2 freeway fire made that area the safest it’s been in years for setting off fireworks considering that the most volatile brush had already burned not to mention the 130′ concrete buffer between the most volatile burn area and homes on the eastside of the 2. In fact, aside from the occasional tree or isolated brush, I can’t recall a single residential fire ever being caused by this tradition as in Never-Ever, including the recent 2 freeway fire. Anyway, safety concerns are one thing but shrill and hysterical fear is another. I simply can’t and won’t support any proposal solely based on fear of EVERYthing, which is the tone of too many town-criers on this thread. Either propose something that also addressed the desire of locals to enjoy local 4th of july fireworks that doesn’t require hitting crowded freeways and paying for expensive parking or continue to pull your remaining hair out every 4th of July. Punitive measures can NOT be the only strategy for imposing safety and well-being in our communities.

    • Go and enjoy one of the many legal, city sponsored displays around the city. Eagle Rock has one. I believe there was another win Grand Park. Highland Park had 6 plus hours of incredibly loud, unsafe and illegal fireworks going on. I’m not taking about fun, relatively safe illegal fireworks…… these were professional grade.

      Not only is the “tradition” illegal, it’s also terrifying to pets and children. IMO, incredibly selfish and careless as well.
      “Newbies”, “transplants”: what makes you any less xenophobic and racist than Trump or Brexit?

    • Sparklers and Smokey Joes are one thing, commercial grade explosives are another thing altogether. They are unpredictable in the wrong hands and have and do cause injuries and fires. I don’t know where you live that you felt safe and free from the chaos, but in between the ghetto pyrotechnic shows and the occasional rounds of gunfire that some yahoos were sneaking in, I heard plenty of sirens wailing where I live, so clearly they were responding to real emergencies caused by fireworks – not “shrill” or “hysterical” phantom fears.. As for no houses burning down due to fireworks, two were in fact burned in Calif – one in Azusa and one in Vallejo. Oh, and our cat is still missing as of last week when the madness escalated. Hopefully she’s hiding out until the smoke clears. But then why should catastrophes, injuries or lost pets be of concern to any self-centered dirtbag hellbent on setting off explosives for entertainment. Hope you all thought it was worth it.

      • I’m sorry to hear about your cat 🙁 I hope you find her soon. You probably already know this, but there is a lost and found pets section on this very blog– have you submitted a photo of your pet for the next email blast?

        • Thanks, she is a feral cat that we took in a few years ago and she hasn’t quite domesticated. She comes around, eats and then goes about her day. The last few weeks have been miserable for her and we haven’t been able to find her in any of her known hideouts. Last 4th she disappeared too but then came around again. Hopefully she will turn up. What sucks is that she was just recovering from an unknown injury and was starting to get a little more comfortable coming in the house. Needless to say, all the commotion hasn’t helped her trust issues. We have checked the shelter, but then it is not likely that she would allow anyone to get near enough to her to pick her up. Poor Kitty.

      • Thank you, Ishamine for your response. I am the person who was targeted by the teens… They were shooting the rockets directly at us. I was terrified. And then I looked behind me to find that a palm tree was engulfed in flames. We ran to get away because it was near powerlines, a transformer, and the train station. All the while, the teenagers were laughing and running down the bike path. I called 911 and luckily the LAFD responded very quickly. It could have been worse. But this is exactly what you said… This was a case of commercial grade explosives in the wrong hands.

    • Procopio You’re wrong about that area being safe to set off fireworks in. There are two abandoned lots right up the hill from where the fire was by the 2 freeway, just above that ridge of houses that comes down to Alessandro. Both are packed with dry brush, one of which is more easily seen from Peru street, but it’s close enough to be set off by a stray spark. And if the wind picks up sparks? That could be carried right over the next hill to the top of the ridge at Echo Park Avenue, which is also packed with dry brush, as are the majority of the yards on Walcott Way and Whitmore Aves– both directly connected to Alessandro.

      eaglerocks is correct– go enjoy one of the city-sponsored displays or keep it to small sparklers in your own backyard. I am also talking commercial-grade fireworks, which is exactly what was left all over Alessandro the next morning. Sorry, your “traditions” don’t trump the physical safety of everyone else who lives around you. Nobody is entitled to threaten a neighborhood that is at extremely high risk for fire because they like blowing stuff up or shooting off bottle rockets on the fourth.

    • Did you begin hearing huge, loud, obnoxious fireworks, with absolutely no colorful display, only noise, intermittently in June, then frequently in beginning of July, only to increase July 4 until you were listening to a constant barrage that sounded like a battleground for five to six hours? I doubt that is the kind of fireworks you enjoy.

      Here, we have no respite on the fourth, don’t you get it? We don’t walk a few blocks over and watch pretty displays of fireworks with our friends then go home. The barrage of noise is constant. And on the fifth there were also a number of fireworks set off, just about the time our pets were beginning to settle down. I wish you could have been in our yard on the past New Years Eve when neighbors fired off big rockets which set trees across the street on fire, requiring two firetrucks and multiple firefighters in order to be put out. The embers flew to the porch of an apartment building next door and if the LAFD hadn’t been able to be there the building would have gone up.

  10. Saturday, July 9, still hearing illegal fireworks in Echo Park, area of Alvarado, between Sunset and the 101.

    Sunday, 2:52 am, very loud explosive sound in same general area.

    How much longer will this be going on? If police action had been instigated on the 4th, would we still be hearing fireworks five days later?

  11. Response to Bongo, Jade and Minifran,

    I have lived further east of Echo Park for 15 years,and it has been a quiet area until this year. The explosive “fireworks” have been going off for at least 4 months before the 4th (which was a nightmare) and are still being heard. Contacting the PD seems to not work, (even if you have a specific address where you have seen the smoke). My neighbors are bothered by this also, one being a Veteran with PTSD, and the other one whose dogs are being frightened.
    So, it seems the excuse for not acting on this threat to the health and safety of our communities is that the LAPD and LAFD are underfunded. Well, perhaps finding and at least fining ($1,000 per offense) those who are doing this might help. Then factor in the costs to LAFD for putting out all the fires caused by these illegal explosives, which would be lessened if these laws were actually enforced. Well, I will continue to contact any and all city officials for my area, and see what, if any responses come.

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