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    Parched Los Angeles launches fireworks buyback programme ahead of July 4

    LOS ANGELES (AFP) – The drought-plagued city of Los Angeles announced a fireworks buyback programme would be held ahead of the United States (US) July 4 holiday, hoping to rein in the explosives’ illegal use in a setup similar to gun buyback programmes.

    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 cancelling public-sanctioned fireworks shows, we saw a 72 per cent 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 tonnes of fireworks were seized, he said.

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

    Fireworks erupt near downtown Los Angeles, California during celebrations for the Fourth of July holiday, amid the coronavirus pandemic. PHOTO: AFP

    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 per cent higher than in previous years.

    Moore warned that police would act against retailers and manufacturers who sell the products illegally.

    Last week, the Los Angeles city attorney ordered major Internet platforms – including Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist – to remove posts selling fireworks within Los Angeles or face legal action.

    The city of Pomona, east of Los Angeles, is offering a USD500 reward for information leading to the arrest of people selling or storing fireworks illegally.

    In neighbouring Ontario, two people died last March when a large stock of fireworks exploded in the house they were in.

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