palm tree on fire

Los Angeles Continues Tradition of Setting County Ablaze

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Due to concerns over increasing cases of COVID-19, Los Angeles County closed its beaches and banned fireworks this Fourth of July. L.A. County residents responded by setting off fireworks for several hours, lighting palm trees and an apartment building on fire in the process.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the Los Angeles Fire Department and the Los Angeles County Fire Department responded to over 3,000 service calls on Independence Day while everyone’s dogs cowered beneath beds and blankets.

In Northridge, an errant firework set a palm tree on fire. The embers spread onto a nearby apartment building, destroying eight units. An LAFD incident report said three residents suffering from smoke inhalation were taken to the hospital in serious condition, while two others suffered minor injuries.

Palm trees are especially flammable and therefore especially dangerous. In a 2012 Bloomberg CityLab article that called them “nature’s tiki torches,” then-LAFD Captain Milton Urquilla noted that many palm trees “don’t get pruned so there’s lots of dry vegetation that will spark a fire.” Those fires can burn for hours if firefighters don’t show up to put them out, and the embers pose a hazard to other trees and structures. According to a warning from the Escondido Fire Department, burning leaf bases and dried fronds detach easily. They’re lightweight, so the wind can easily sweep them long distances.

Despite all this, Angelenos across the county still played with fire — literally. As is an annual tradition, they posted videos of flaming trees in their neighborhoods to social media. Like this:

The morning after the noisy night was filled with haze. The South Coast Air Quality Management District announced that the Air Quality Index levels were unhealthy in L.A. and San Bernardino counties.

“Fireworks are known to emit high levels of particulate matter (PM2.5 and PM10) as well as metal air pollutants, all of which can contribute to negative health effects,” read the statement from the South Coast AQMD. “The smoke and combustion products from fireworks add to the fine particles already present in the Basin that are primarily caused by motor vehicles, as well as fugitive dust and industrial emissions.”

For a big-picture look at how much Los Angeles failed to listen to county officials, watch this video that combines aerial news footage with the opening theme of “Blade Runner.”

Los Angeleno