Updated July 2, 2020 - 6:41 pm
Clark County has received more than five times as many illegal fireworks complaints this summer than last year, according to a county spokeswoman.
By Thursday morning, the county had received 8,901 illegal fireworks complaints on its ISpyFireworks.com website. At this time last year, the county had received 1,695 complaints, spokeswoman Stacey Welling said.
Warren Whitney, deputy fire chief with the Clark County Fire Department, explained that the number of complaints this year will not correlate with the number of citations given out.
He said the website collects data this year that will be utilized next year. So this year, the department looked back on last year’s data and has been sending out task forces to the “hot spots” where there were lots of reports.
Fireworks use in the county is only legal in the week leading up to the Fourth of July. This year, “safe and sane” fireworks — described on the county’s website as “fireworks that keep to a small, circular area on the ground” — are allowed through Saturday night.
Exploding or rocket fireworks, which the county said include firecrackers, cherry bombs, bottle rockets and roman candles, are illegal year-round.
Officials said they believe the spike in illegal fireworks use can likely be attributed to quarantine boredom.
“I think people have just been cooped up in quarantine for too long,” said Scott Thompson, a fire inspector with the Las Vegas Fire Department. “They’re looking for entertainment, and illegal fireworks are a popular way to find it.”
House fires, gunshots
Whitney agreed, saying he expects to see an increase in fireworks-related house fires this year. Last week, illegal fireworks likely caused a house fire in Henderson, resulting in about $140,000 in damage, according to the Henderson Fire Department.
The Metropolitan Police Department warned of illegal gunfire as well, saying in a statement Thursday that 911 reports of illegal shootings have increased by 20 percent in the past month. Gunshots detected by ShotSpotter “have spiked by four times the amount this month, compared to last month.”
The department said people sometimes aim their guns into the air to shoot celebratory rounds on the night of July Fourth, but warned against it.
“It’s the old rule,” Deputy Chief James Seebock said in a statement. “What comes up must come down, and bullets have a trajectory that can cause a lot of damage and even inadvertently kill someone.”
Whitney encouraged people to use common sense when lighting fireworks this weekend.
“I feel like there’s probably a better term to use, but really it comes down to common sense,” he said. “Even with the ‘safe and sane’ ones, it’s still fire, so you need to make sure you’re lighting them in a safe area.”
Safe areas include parking lots, streets, or areas without foliage or structures nearby, Whitney said. Thompson added that it’s important to always keep a garden hose or bucket of water nearby when lighting fireworks, and to submerge the fireworks in water for at least an hour before disposal.
The Las Vegas Fire Department held a fireworks safety demonstration at the city’s fire training center, 633 N. Mojave Road, on Thursday afternoon. A few “safe and sane” fireworks were set off on asphalt, and then the bomb squad blew up four watermelons with explosives.
“It’s a great way to show just how harsh these explosions are,” Whitney said. “The fruit kind of looks like flesh, and it can show just what will happen if it explodes in your hand.”
Las Vegas City Council members Olivia Diaz, Brian Knudsen and Victoria Seaman joined the department in reminding the public of safety tips for this Fourth of July weekend.
“This will be the Fourth of July that everyone wore face masks to the barbecue or cookout, but let’s not let our excitement get in the way,” Knudsen said. “We’re still in the middle of a pandemic.”
They encouraged residents to keep gatherings small and wear masks while keeping 6 feet apart from anyone who doesn’t live in the same household.
“Let’s be smart, let’s be responsible and let’s be diligent,” Knudsen said. “Wear a mask, report illegal fireworks in a responsible way and have a great Fourth of July weekend.”