Illegal fireworks blamed for house fire

DOWNEY - Illegal fireworks are suspected of setting a house on fire July 4, displacing a Downey family. The fire was reported at about 9 p.m. on the 9100 block of Hasty Street.

The blaze is thought to have started in the home's rear patio before spreading to the attic, said assistant fire chief Mark Gillaspie.

"Fire crews aggressively extended hose lines to the involved areas, as well as opened up the attic space to extinguish the fire," said Gillaspie.

No one was home at the time of the fire, but the family has been displaced due to damage to the home.

Witnesses told investigators they saw illegal fireworks being discharged in the area before the fire broke out.

Total damage to the home is estimated at $25,000.

This week, council members expressed dismay at the number of illegal fireworks visible in Downey last week, calling it "a war zone."

The Downey Police Department had eight officers and two supervisors in unmarked police cruisers and bicycles on duty July 4 specifically to deal with illegal firworks.

The department received 179 calls regarding fireworks in the days leading up to and including the Fourth of July, authorities said.

"In keeping with our policy of zero tolerance when we actually observe a violation, Downey officers issued 43 fireworks ciations," the department said in a statement. "Nevertheless, we realize this paled in comparison to the actual number of illegal fireworks that were discharged during the course of the evening.

"Our goal in years to come is to educate the public on the dangers of illegal fireworks and embrace a collaborative community effort in order to promote an enjoyable holiday experience for all of our citizens."

At Tuesday's City Council meeting, Mayor Mario Guerra requested a report within 30 days on plans to mitigate illegal firework use.

"Independence Day is a very special occasion for the citizens of the great country that we live in," the department statement continued. "With that in mind, many people celebrate the occasion by lighting 'safe and sane' fireworks on their property. Unfortunately, a growing segment of the population chose to participate by deploying illegal fireworks."

********** Published: July 11, 2013 - Volume 12 - Issue 13