So are you going to snitch on your neighbors’ fireworks?
Confiscated fireworks after The Southern Nevada Traffic Task Force conducted speed and firework enforcement on Highway 160. (Photo: LVMPD Traffic Bureau)
In a neighborhood on the border of Paradise and Henderson, lighting fireworks on the Fourth of July is a community tradition. The area is also a hot spot for setting off illegal fireworks.
Neighborhood residents make annual pilgrimages to shops like Red Apple in Nye County, which sells fireworks with name like House on Fire, Current Events, Blond Joke, Chinese Take Out and Funky Fish – all illegal to sell in Clark County.
This year, Clark County developed the website ISpyFireworks.com, a site that encourages anyone who spots illegal fireworks to report the area to law enforcement anonymously as a way to help police collect data for future enforcement.
Gloria Gonzalez, 77, has lived in her neighborhood for 23 years, since 1995. People always flood into the neighborhood on the Fourth of July to watch the illegal fireworks, blocking the street with rows of cars.
All her children grew up in the neighborhood and now her grandchildren spend the Fourth of July with her and happily watch the fireworks on the other end of the street. She buys her young grandchildren sparklers that are sold in numerous booths across the city.
She says she has no plans to tell authorities about illegal firework activity in her neighborhood.
In her opinion, it’s not an issue. She says it’s a very peaceful neighborhood where everyone greets and helps one another.
“Nobody betrays each other’s trust,” Gonzalez said in Spanish. “They’re good neighbors.”
Luis, 24, who asked that his last name not be used, is one of the people in the neighborhood who lights up illegal fireworks. Most of the time, a night of lighting Roman Candles with friends ends without issue, but last year police came by and told him to dispose of his fireworks or risk a fine.
“It bums me out, you know? It’s once a year. You just want to have some fun,” Luis said.
He still plans on using illegal fireworks but is considering shooting them off in the desert instead to avoid a citation.
On a mission to curtail the use of illegal fireworks, officers and fire inspectors have created a multi-agency task force that will set out in three-person enforcement teams and actively cite people who use illegal fireworks.
Any fireworks that rocket, explode or leave the ground once they are ignited are illegal in Clark County. The only legal fireworks approved are “safe and sane” fireworks sold by TNT and Phantom, which include sparklers and fireworks that ignite in a small circular area on the ground.
Officials said any offenders caught using illegal fireworks will be subject to $1,000 fines plus disposal fees running into hundreds of dollars.
Further down the street, John Barnes, 67, fills up a small plastic kiddie pool with water from the hose for his Golden Retriever Diesel, who he named after his old Mercedes.
As for the illegal fireworks in the neighborhood, he isn’t a big fan and neither is his dog. Barnes is aware of their potential danger and at times worries someone might get hurt but, like Gonzalez, he says he will not be reporting his neighbors to law enforcement this Fourth of July.
“I wouldn’t and I’m not going to,” Barnes said. “We have a wonderful neighborhood. It’s extremely safe and extremely friendly and why would I want to disrupt that over something that— to me— is so trivial?”
He recalls that when he bought his house seven years ago he removed a tree from his front lawn only to later be chastised by his new neighbors for not asking them to help pull the tree out.
Banes said the neighborhood is multicultural and watching everyone celebrate the country together every year melts any reservation he has about illegal fireworks.
“A celebration of the country is a wonderful thing,” Barnes said. “It makes you feel very good.”
Barnes thinks that if the county truly did want to solve the issue of illegal fireworks they would do it in a more constructive way.
“I’m sorry, but if you’re serious about the problem you go after the source. You don’t go after the end user,” Barnes said. “You especially don’t go after the end user that’s just celebrating the Fourth of July.”
Only four states have bans on fireworks, New York, West Virginia, Iowa and Pennsylvania.
According to the U.S Consumer Product Safety Commission, on average, 280 people go to the emergency room every day with fireworks-related injuries in the month around the Fourth of July.
Even the smallest fireworks can cause damage. In 2017, there were an estimated 1,200 emergency department-treated injuries associated with sparklers and 300 with bottle rockets.
“Fireworks are not only dangerous but also pose a serious nuisance to seniors, veterans, pets and many residents who are sensitive to the loud noise caused by fireworks,” including those still coping with the 1 October shooting, said Clark County Commission Vice Chair Chris Giunchigliani in a statement. ”We hope our enforcement efforts get the message across to those who use and abuse illegal fireworks that we are fed up.”
This will be Angel Torres’s first Fourth of July in the neighborhood on the border of Paradise and Henderson. She’s lived there three months with her husband and children. Her main concern about reporting the use of illegal fireworks in the neighborhood is antagonizing her new neighbors and spurning future friendships.
“I wouldn’t want problems,” Torres said. “I would just mind my own business to be honest with you, especially not knowing anyone.”
“I’m not trying to be labeled as a snitch,” Torres said.
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