(March 7, 2006) -- It literally raised the roof of a house...now may figuratively raise the roof at the March 14 Lakewood City Council meeting.
Amid scattered debris, boarded-up windows and a stream of sightseeing cars, people came and shook their heads at the aftermath of a massive explosion involving alleged illegal fireworks at a home on Dunrobin at Ashworth Street (north of South St. between Bellflower Blvd. & Woodruff Ave.) in north Lakewood.
The 6:50 a.m. Sunday blast was so powerful that LBReport.com readers reported hearing it as far away as ELB's LBCC and western El Dorado Park neighborhoods. A number of visitors to the location on March 6 said it was a miracle that no one was killed or seriously injured.
The explosion sent debris flying and literally raised the roof of the house, leaving the structure yellow-tagged.
A parked vehicle nearby.
Neighborhood residents with boarded up windows watch the passing parade of sightseers.
Some area residents were critical of Lakewood City Hall for its ineffective response to prior complaints about the location...and for permitting the sale of state-allowed fireworks in Lakewood which they say invites the sale of illegal fireworks.
A July 7 letter from a 40-year Lakewood resident to Lakewood's Mayor, cc'd to the Lakewood City Council, the Capt. of the Lakewood Sheriff's station and L.A. County Supervisor Don Knabe said in part:
"The city of Lakewood must stop the sale of fireworks because I truly believe it encourages the import of illegal fireworks. Our neighborhood was like an Iraqi war zone on the 4th [of July]. All the calls to the sheriff's station went unheeded, even if answered," the letter said. It added, "The increased fines that the city so gallantly bragged about are completely meaningless if the citations are not issued. How does a paltry amount earned from the sale of those [legal] fireworks compare to the amount we have to pay the sheriff's department and fire department for extra coverage plus overtime?"
A few miles to the south, LB city officials have previously indicated they believe the sale of "safe and sane" fireworks in nearby cities contributes to LB residents' complaints about July 4th fireworks and associated policing costs. All fireworks are illegal in LB...and the city publicly maintains a "zero tolerance" attitude toward scofflaws.
In 2004, residents' complaints and City Hall police/fire costs (estimated at five or six figures depending on the level of deployment) prompted the LB City Council to go on record to "support legislative efforts to ban the sale and use of fireworks in the state of California, with the exception of professional demonstrations."
Whether Lakewood residents press en masse to reverse their city's current policy of allowing the sale of state-allowed ("safe and sane") fireworks -- a revenue raiser for Lakewood City Hall and some groups -- remains to be seen. But the house explosion has prompted some Lakewood taxpayers to take Lakewood City Hall and the L.A. County Sheriff's Dept. to task for their handling of fireworks related issues prior to the explosion.
For their part, Lakewood City Hall and the Lakewood Sheriff's brass told LBReport.com that they did respond to citizen complaints.
Lakewood City Hall Public Information Officer Don Waldie acknowledged he was aware of the July 2005 letter and other fireworks related complaints. "When we receive any sort of communication, a letter or email or in person related to service, we track those requests and they're routed to the appropriate city division or department. We're a "contract city" [Lakewood provides basic services via contracting agencies and firms] and this procedure was followed, meaning the letter was directed to the contracting agency, which in this case was the Sheriff's Dept.," Mr. Waldie said. He then politely referred our questions about specifics to the Sheriff's Dept.
Lakewood Sheriff's station Capt. David Fender told LBReport.com he had no immediate recollection of receiving the specific July 05 taxpayer letter, but said the Lakewood Sheriff's station had received calls for service in the area and did respond to them.
Capt. Fender said L.A.S.D. received roughly 15 calls since 2004 from callers referring to that specific address plus another roughly 20 calls extending back to 2002 indicating the general direction without referring to a specific address. The majority of the calls were anonymous, not unusual for telephone callers Capt. Fender noted.
Capt. Fender said that prior to the explosion, Sheriffs conducted a surveillance of the Dubrobin St. residence, which including going through refuse in an effort to find possible evidence, but came up empty handed.
Capt. Fender acknowledged that a member of the public had provided Sheriffs with a videotape in November, allegedly showing fireworks activity four months earlier (in July) with smoke and an image of a person who Sheriffs felt at the time couldn't be identified with the precision needed to get a search warrant.
Capt. Fender noted that fireworks violations are a misdemeanor and by law, Sheriffs' deputies can't make an arrest for any misdemeanor unless they observe it committed in their presence. "Unfortunately, this leaves the Deputy in the position of having to catch someone in the act," he said. So why is Brian Miller [the resident arrested after the explosion] in jail on felony charges? "It's a result of what our arson and other investigators found after the explosion," Capt. Fender said.
The fireworks issue is virtually certain to arise at the March 14 Lakewood City Council meeting...either as an agendized item or during public comment on non-agendized matters.
As one Lakewood resident put it, "It's a big deal when the top stories on the evening news are the Academy Awards and Lakewood's fireworks explosion."