Fourth of July 2011, Los Angeles: The Damage
Judging by the American flag-shaped sunburns on our foreheads and bottle-rocket scars rendering our thumbs useless today (JK -- fireworks have been illegal in L.A. since World War II!), it was a relatively successful, if damn sweaty, Fourth of July weekend.
But when man parties with fire, especially in such a dead summer heat, on a pent-up four-day weekend like this last one, things go wrong. And they did.
"The Fourth of July is typically one of our busiest days of the year," says Jaime Moore, a spokesman for the L.A. City Fire Department. "And this was right in line with what we expected."
Here's the mess we the people created for L.A. law enforcement and emergency responders, in honor of America's big 235th:
• From Friday afternoon through midnight on Monday, the California Highway Patrol clocked 16 more drunk-driving arrests in its Southern Division than last year, at 226. Zero fatal collisions in 2010 rose to one in 2011. CHP Officer Sherman says this can be blamed on the fact that the Fourth fell on a Monday -- providing one more day for hot holiday debauchery.
• Most tragically, a 12-year-old girl in South L.A. might lose her eyesight after a firecracker blew up in her face at a house party around 11 p.m. last night. Via the Fire Department's blog:
According to witnesses, the girl had been in front of her home using a sparkler -- also illegal in Los Angeles -- when another person discharged an illegal 'firecracker-like' device near her face, impaling her right eye.
A team of six LAFD crew members worked in unison to stabilize the injury while providing emotional care to the patient and her family, then quickly transported the girl to Children's Hospital Los Angeles, where a team of experts awaited to provide her care.
• A man and a woman apparently setting off fireworks at Stoney Point park in Chatsworth last night -- and sparking a half-acre brush fire in the process -- have been evading authorities, for obvious reasons. But before they got away, witnesses saw them looking "badly injured" around 9:30 p.m., reports City News Service. After about 45 minutes of fighting the fire, firefighters "recovered a large stash of abandoned fireworks" in the cliffs nearby. If you've seen the owners (possibly burned to a crisp), the Fire Department's Arson/Counter-Terrorism Section (yes, that exists, frighteningly) would love to know where they are: (213) 485-6095.
As we can see below, the fire danger at their chosen spot for Independence Day revelry is absurd. That's what the beach is for, dummies!
• All of SoCal's fire departments were working full time last night -- but one truck of U.S. Forest Service workers in Palmdale became an accident scene themselves when they rolled off a mountain road north of the Angeles National Forest. Three had to be cut out of the wreckage, and six were either helicoptered or ambulanced to nearby hospitals. According to City News, the driver had swerved to avoid a dog in the road.
We're still waiting on the final stats, re: firework-related incidents, from the region's various fire crews -- and total DUI arrests from the LAPD's traffic division, who was also working overtime -- so stay tuned for the rest of the damage.
Update: Moore (of the L.A. City Fire Department) says they received 1,170 calls yesterday -- 17 percent higher than the Fourth of July average. He blames this on high, even record, temperatures in various parts of L.A.
"Whenever you have high temps like that, especially on a celebration like Independence Day," he says, medical emergencies "like people forgetting to drink water" skyrocket, on top of the increased firework accidents and brush fires. A telling Tweet from the department, around 10 p.m. last night:
What a way to usher in the "worst fire season ever," right?