Pop, Pop, Pop: Were those fire crackers or gunshots?

The following post was originally published in July 2011. Some of the persons interviewed have retired or changed jobs since the post was published.

Many Eastsiders have been asking this question as the upcoming Fourth of July holiday promises to deliver the annual barrage of fireworks with the occasional burst of gunfire or at least what sounds like gunfire. Police instruct residents to call 911 when they hear gunshots. But that can get confusing when your neighborhood is filled with the sounds of bombs bursting in air during July 4 celebrations (remember to keep pets indoors).

How do you know if that popping sound down the block is an M-80 fire cracker, a 9 mm semi-automatic or a 12-gauge shotgun? The Eastsider asked some folks who are familiar with the sounds of the season to help tell the difference.

Capt. Bill Murphy, LAPD Northeast Division:

Some fireworks are more rapid – think of firecrackers, very fast and random – as opposed to gun fire, which can be a consistent sound. Firing a 9 MM will give off the same sound for each shot. Also, some fireworks can be very loud and a one-time explosion (think big rocket). They also have a sound associated with the launch before the explosion (sizzling sound from the wick/fuse lighting). Hopefully, this helps a little.

Sally Fernandez, spokeswoman with Safety Dynamics, a maker of gun shot recognition systems:

Let me just say in general that firecracker and small arms fire – like a 9 mm or a 22 – sound signatures are very, very similar. That being said, it is very difficult to distinguish between the two with the normal ear. Gunshot systems use a variety of technologies to reduce this confusion. Police departments, if they get a gunshot alert, are able to see video of what caused the gunshot (i.e.; the person or vehicle that it came from) or hear the gunshot. This helps them to reduce the confusion between the two events. Unfortunately, the average person is left with their ears only.

Senior Lead Officer Albert Polehonki, LAPD Northeast Division:

Sometimes its hard to tell the difference for us as well. My best explanation is that gunshots are usually heard in a distinct sequence, or a steady pattern, sometimes fast or slow depending on how fast the shooter pulls the trigger. Firecrackers usually don`t have any pattern especially when a whole package is lit.

Darin Williams, owner of Select Patrol*:

In most cases when I hear gunshots, it is most often a volley of multiple shots fired in rapid succession and not tremendously loud.

Lt. Wes Buhrmester, LAPD Rampart Division:

Most fireworks can be classified as sharp and low-volume, as with firecrackers, or booming, as in a small explosion (M80 and such). Also, most fireworks make a flash, if one is watching the skies or horizon. Gunshots are audibly more defined, and on July 4 or New Year’s Eve, often happen in succession, since those shots are often done in a “celebratory” manner. Of course, if one has any doubt, call the police and we will check it out.

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  1. The fireworks in HP are way over the top , its surprising that a house has not been burned down from having so many going off. And its not just on the 4th , already at night I ve been hearing them going off , not a lot yet but its totally crazy because its ILLEGAL ! Has anyone ever heard of the police giving a situation for fireworks? I ve lived in HP for many years and its always been like a battle scene here on the 4th.

  2. Actually a lot of the big airborne fireworks we see are made in the USA. They are legal in many states. There was quite a bit of national PR about it last year.
    All fireworks are illegal in City of Los Angeles unless they are a part of a professional & licensed show. That said, there used to be all kinds of PR by the LAFD & LAPD to call 911 if you see people shooting fireworks. Now I think they’ve just given up.
    You’ll notice the helicopters fly a lot higher on the 4th when they cruise down the 5 Frwy since the amateur fireworks tend to get pretty high now!

  3. I don’t think it matters whether or not we’re hearing gunshots or fireworks. Whether you dial 911 for gunshots or the non-emergency line for fireworks you’ll most likely be put on hold…on the non-emergency line the minimum is twenty minutes. I’ve emailed the LAPD ( no response) and then called both Northeast and Rampart divisions and talked to officers who answered. They just say they know it’s frustrating but you just have to keep calling in to report incidents. A week ago Friday night I called twice about neighbors shooting off extremely loud fireworks right below my window across our alley. I was able to give Police exact location and was reassurred by operator that they would be out…police never came.

    We’ve heard illegal fireworks here in Echo Park since Memorial Day and as I write I’m hearing more. Our pets are extremely frightened and the explosions have us on edge for hours at a time. Last year the Eastsider ran stories of palm trees set on fire by fireworks, yet we could not get police to come out and stop those setting big fireworks off in the middle of our neighborhood street! Already this year a young boy has had partial amputation of three fingers due to firework going off in his hand.

    They provide noise, that’s all. If someone wants beauty they can attend legal displays. Our local fire station is right in the middle of an area involved, and I can’t believe that they don’t see or hear fireworks and report them to police. If the helicopter pilots are worried about being affected by fireworks then surely they can report them. Why is this allowed to go on year after year? It literally makes me sick. Does anyone know of efforts to address the issue?

    • Today I sent a slightly different version of post above to Mayor Garcetti and Councilmen O’Farrell and Cedillo. Be interesting to see if any attention is given.

  4. Ofarrell’s office said that the more residents who report illegal fireworks to Lapd, the more likely Lapd is to respond. LAPD practically laughed at me last year when I called the local station directly and asked if someone could come by while a kid set off fireworks directly under a massive palm in EP. This was after another palm caught fire down the block the night before. They still didn’t care. My dogs shake uncontrollably, the animal shelters (where I volunteer) end up so overcrowded by runaway pets frightened by fireworks that they have to put down more dogs than they do all year in order to make room for all the runaway pets who end up impounded. Not to mention the incredibly dangerous fire hazard of setting off illegal fireworks in the middle of a densely populated residential area…which is a tinder box in this drought. Wouldn’t sending a few LAPD patrol cars around the neighborhood as a deterrent take up far less city resources than the inevitable strain on city shelters and the fire department? Also, cd13 said Lapd is more concerned about gunshots during Fourth of July week than fireworks…but people use the fireworks as cover for gunshots. If Lapd actually started enforcing the ban on illegal fireworks, the gunshots would no longer have so much cover and it would be easier to identify and respond to gunshots when they went off.

    • I agree with your opinions on illegal fireworks, and would like to ask a question. Did you use 911 to call in about fireworks last year, or the non-emergency number? To me, the situation you describe and the two I mentioned above qualify for 911, but I used non-emergency. Thoughts? Thanks

  5. An effective way to address this issue is to 1) diligently document all of the actual fires/damage caused by July 4 fireworks and 2) establish and promote a legal fireworks display that addresses the desire of people to celebrate the 4th (e.g., Dodger Stadium). I’ve also always wondered why they can’t just light-up a raft in the middle of EP lake, which would encourage all residents to discourage illegal fireworks in favor of the professional production. That’s the responsible compromise but I’m certain it won’t satisfy the shrill, hysterical, and self-righteous segment of our community that always insists on their way as being the ONLY way.

    • Just how many more do we need?
      Scroll down to “Los Angeles” and you’ll see Dodger Stadium included among many others.

      Fireworks Extravaganza at Almansor Park
      800 S. Almansor Ave
      Admission is free
      At 9 p.m. the skies light up with explosions and flashes and colors and excitement. It happens every July the 4th, but every year is a new thrill, the ooohs and ahhhs getting stronger and more excitable.
      But that’s just the main event of the Fourth, because before that families will be staking out their space on the lawn (the fireworks can be seen from any Almansor Park location), and beginning at 2 p.m., there will be food vendors, family activities, carnival games, and entertainment. Beginning at 7:30 p.m.
      Carnival: 2 p.m.; Musical Entertainment 7:30 p.m.; Fireworks Extravaganza 9 p.m.

      Artesia Community Park
      12000 block of South Street / Elaine
      Artesia, CA
      Admission is free
      9:00 p.m.

      Baldwin Park
      Sierra Vista High School
      3600 Frazier Ave. (Field behind bleachers)
      Baldwin Park, CA
      9:00 p.m.

      Starlight Bowl
      1249 Lockheed View Drive
      Starlight Bowl Presents Americana Celebration
      a July 4th Fireworks Spectacular filled with hits!
      Purchase tickets ONLINE or at the Community Services Building Gates open at 5:30 p.m.
      Entertainment from 6:30 – 9:00 p.m.
      Fireworks – 9:00 p.m.

      Calabasas High School
      22855 W. Mulholland Hwy.
      Calabassas, CA
      9:00 p.m.

      Cerritos High School
      12500 E. 183rd Street
      Cerritos, CA
      9:00 p.m.

      Pomona College Campus
      333 North College Way
      Claremont, CA
      9:00 p.m.

      Rosewood Park
      2535 Commerce Way
      Commerce, CA
      9:00 p.m.

      Crescenta Valley
      Crescenta Valley High School
      2900 Community Ave.
      Crescenta Valley, CA
      9:00 p.m.

      Culver City
      West Los Angeles College
      9000 Overland Avenue (near Jefferson)
      Gates open at 4 PM, entertainment begins at 6:30 p.m., and the fireworks start at 9:00 p.m.
      Suggested Donation is $5.00 per person, Kids 5 and under – $0.00. Bring a picnic or enjoy food from snack bar and vendors.
      Parking is available in nearby lots for $10 per car.

      Diamond Bar
      Diamond Bar High School – Baseball Field
      21400 E. Pathfinder Rd. (Pathfinder & Brea Canyon)
      Diamond Bar, CA
      9:00 p.m.

      Eagle Rock
      Eagle Rock Recreation Center
      1100 Eagle Vista Dr.
      Eagle Rock, CA
      9:00 p.m.

      El Sereno
      El Sereno Recreation Center
      4721 Klamath St.
      El Sereno, CA
      9:00 p.m.

      Rowley Park (Baseball Field)
      13220 S. Van Ness Ave.
      Gardena, CA
      9:00 p.m.

      Hansen Dam
      11770 Foothill Blvd.
      Lake View Terrace, CA

      Hollywood Bowl
      2301 North Highland Ave – July 4th Spectacular with Smokey Robinson
      Thursday, July 2, 2015, 7:30 p.m.
      Friday, July 3, 2015, 7:30 p.m.
      Saturday, July 4, 2015, 7:30 p.m.

      Huntington Park
      Salt Lake Park
      6550 Miles Ave.
      Huntington Park, CA.
      9:00 p.m.

      Irwindale Speedway
      13300 Live Oak Ave.
      Irwindale, CA
      Gates 4:00, racing starts at 7:00 p.m., fireworks ay 9:30 p.m.

      La Crescenta
      La Crescenta Elementary School
      2800 Prospect Ave.
      La Crescenta, CA
      Music, rides and a line-up of food trucks, culminating in a fireworks show.Gates open at 4:00 p.m. and close at 8:30 p.m., Fireworks at 9:00 p.m.
      Tickets are $7 pre-sale, $10 at the gate; children under 7 get in for free.

      La Habra
      La Habra High School (Baseball Field)
      801 Highlander
      La Habra, CA
      9:00 p.m.

      La Mirada
      La Mirada Community Regional Park
      13701 S. Adelfa Ave.
      La Mirada, CA
      9:30 p.m.

      Antelope Valley Fairgrounds
      2551 West Ave H
      Lancaster, CA
      4:00 – 7:00 p.m. Entertainment and food outside of Grandstand area
      7:00 p.m. Professional Bull Riders Touring Pro Division – Purchase tickets here
      7:00 – 8:30 p.m. Entertainment in grass area outside grandstands
      9:30 p.m. Free Fireworks Show
      Grandstand seating for fireworks requires a paid admission ticket to PBR. Bring chair & blanket for free non-grandstand seating on the lawn. Parking is $5. Outside alcohol and pets are prohibited.

      Long Beach
      The Queen Mary
      1126 Queen’s Highway
      One of the largest shows in California starts promptly at 9:00 p.m.
      with incredible views from the Sun Deck
      For tickets, go to https://tickets.queenmary.com/ItemList.aspx?node_id=161303
      For more information, go to http://www.queenmary.com

      Los Angeles
      July 4th at Grand Park
      227 N. Spring
      Los Angeles, CA
      Event starts at 3:00 p.m., Fireworks at 9:00 p.m.

      Los Angeles
      13th Annual Fireworks Extravaganza at Van Ness Recreation Center,
      with Councilmember Bernard C. Parks
      5720 2nd Avenue
      Los Angeles, CA
      Event starts at 12:00 p.m., Fireworks at 9:00 p.m.

      Los Angeles
      Dodger’s Stadium
      1000 Elysian Park Ave.
      Los Angeles, CA
      Mets vs. Dodgers
      4th of July Fireworks
      Presented by Cirque du Soleil’s Kurios

      Los Angeles
      Exposition Park
      700 Exposition Park Drive
      Los Angeles, CA
      Christmas Tree Lane- South Lawn
      12:00 p.m.- 10 p.m., Fireworks start at dusk

      Lynwood City Park
      3700 Beechwood Ave.
      Lynwood, CA
      9:00 p.m.

      Malibu (Private)
      Barge off the Coast
      80 Malibu Colony Road
      9:00 p.m.

      Malibu (Private)
      Barge off the Coast
      21622 Pacific Coast Highway
      9:00 p.m.

      Malibu (Private)
      Barge off the Coast
      27856 Pacific Coast Highway
      9:00 p.m.

      Marina Del Rey
      Burton Chase Park
      13650 Mindanao Way
      Marina del Rey
      9:00 p.m.

      Marina Del Rey
      Fisherman’s Village
      13755 Fiji Way
      Marina Del Rey, CA
      9:00 p.m.

      Library Park
      321 Myrtle Ave.
      Monrovia, CA
      The City of Monrovia’s 4th of July Concert & Fireworks Show is scheduled for Saturday, July 4. Entertainment will begin at 3:00 p.m. with recorded music, followed by a live band playing from 7:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. The Fireworks Show is free of charge and is scheduled to begin at 9:00 p.m. and will last approximately 20 minutes. Spectators may reserve a park space no larger than 10 x 10 feet and must be supervised at all times.

      Pacific Palisades
      Palisades Charter High School
      15777 Bowdoin Street
      Pacific Palisades, CA
      Food trucks and performances at 4:00
      Fireworks 9:00 p.m.
      Buy tickets ONLINE

      Rose Bowl
      1001 Rose Bowl Dr.
      Noon – 9:30 p.m.
      Americafest at the Rose Bowl

      Pomona Fairplex
      It’s the 29th annual fireworks spectacular at Fairplex. Monster trucks and Moto X extreme get the crowd cheering and the stupendous fireworks are the grand finale. The nighttime programming has been a crowd pleaser since its inception in 2002. It puts the boom in KABOOM! Monster Truck and Big Air Freestyle Motocross 8 p.m.
      New this year – The Human Cannonball will soar 150 feet through the air to keep the crowd on its feet!
      $16 for general seating
      $19.50 for trackside bleachers
      $25 for reserved box seats
      Ages 2 & younger are admitted free
      Parking is $10 at Gate 17 on Fairplex Dr. (gates open at 5 p.m.)
      Combine your fireworks with a buffet – priced $28 to $52

      Porter Ranch
      Shepherd of the Hills Church
      19700 Rinaldi St.
      Porter Ranch, CA
      Gates open at 4:00, 4:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.

      Redondo Beach
      Seaside Lagoon
      200 Portofino Way
      Redondo Beach, CA
      Gates open at 2:00, Fireworks at 9:00 p.m.

      Rosemead Park (Football Field)
      9200 Mission Ave. at Encinitas
      Rosemead, CA
      9:00 p.m.

      San Fernando
      San Fernando High School
      11133 Omelveny Ave, Football Field
      Saturday, July 4
      Free public event
      Doors Open: 6:00 p.m., Fireworks: 9:00 p.m.

      San Pedro – Cabrillo Beach
      4th of July Celebration and Fireworks show.
      3720 Stephen M. White Dr.
      San Pedro, CA
      Live music, U.S. military exhibits, tours of a Navy frigate, armed forces, and U.S. Coast Guard demonstrations, displays by the LA City Fire Department’s firefighting boat, and the Washington Artillery Reenactment group followed by fireworks.
      9:00 p.m.

      Santa Clarita
      Valencia Town Center
      Off top of parking structure
      26735 Circle Drive
      Santa Clarita, CA
      9:00 p.m.

      South El Monte
      South El Monte High School
      1001 N. Durfee Ave.
      South El Monte, CA
      9:00 p.m.

      South Gate
      South Gate Park
      9615 Pinehurst Ave.
      South Gate
      9:00 p.m.

      Studio City
      CBS Studio Center
      4024 Radford Ave.
      Studio City, CA
      Adults $20, Children 6-12 $10, add $20 for rooftop viewing access or pay $100 for VIP tickets.
      5:00 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.
      But tickets ONLINE

      Sunland Tujunga
      Verdugo Hills High School
      10625 Plainview Ave.
      The Sunland Tujunga Neighborhood Council Presents the Family Fireworks Festival
      Fun – Food – Fantastic Fireworks
      The gates will open at 5 p.m., the music starts, the food is cooking and everyone will come in to watch fireworks. Kids Games and Activities are being planned. The gates will close at 8:30 p.m., so be sure to arrive with plenty of time and then shortly after 9 p.m. the fireworks begin when the 20+ minute show lights up the sky. We hope you enjoyed last year’s event and we look forward to another great year in 2015!
      Tickets are just $7 each children 36 inches under get in free.

      Walnut High School
      South end of Baseball Field
      21207 La Puente Rd.
      Walnut, CA
      9:00 p.m.

      Westlake Village
      Westlake Golf Course Driving Range
      4812 Lakeview Canyon Rd.
      Westlake Village, CA
      9:15 p.m.

      Woodland Hills
      Warner Park
      5800 Topanga Canyon Blvd.
      Woodland Hills, CA
      Concert 6:00 – 8:00 pm, fireworks to live music at 9:00 p.m.
      $15 in any of the Warner Center structures between Topanga and Canoga or Califa and Oxnard

      Magic Mountain
      26101 Magic Mountain Parkway
      9:00 p.m.

      Sunday, July 5

      Agoura Hills
      Agoura Hills High School
      28545 W. Driver Ave.
      Agoura Hills, CA
      9:00 p.m.

      Magic Mountain
      26101 Magic Mountain Parkway
      9:00 p.m.

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