Parched Los Angeles launches fireworks buyback program ahead of July 4

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The drought-plagued city of Los Angeles announced a fireworks buyback program would be held Wednesday ahead of the US July 4 holiday, hoping to rein in the explosives’ illegal use in a setup similar to gun buyback programs.

The initiative will make it possible to anonymously hand in fireworks — whose sale and use are banned in the city — to the police in exchange for baseball tickets and other gifts.

The majority of California is under extreme drought conditions, according to the US Drought Monitor, creating parched vegetation and conditions ripe for wildfires.

“Last year with the pandemic and the necessity of canceling public-sanctioned fireworks shows, we saw a 72 percent increase in calls” concerning illegal fireworks, Los Angeles Police Department chief Michel Moore said.

In total more than 6,000 calls were received and more than four tons of fireworks were seized, he said.

The buyback program is targeting the San Fernando Valley north of Los Angeles in particular, an arid area susceptible to fires.

In addition to increased risk of fire and injury, fireworks launched by individuals also aggravate air pollution. According to air quality control authorities, the concentration of fine particles in the air on the night on July 4, 2020 was 70 percent higher than in previous years.

Meanwhile, an explosion rocked a South Los Angeles neighborhood Wednesday evening, damaging nearby homes and cars and leaving at least 17 people injured after police attempted to safely detonate illegal fireworks that were seized from a home.

A bomb squad truck was destroyed from the blast, and first responders were at the scene treating injured residents, aerial footage from AIR7 HD showed.

The injury count of 16 people who were transported to local hospitals for treatment included nine LAPD officers.

Read more via AFP/France 24/ABC News