Every year, Dale Porray sits in his home on Fourth of July worrying that the aerial fireworks shooting off nearby will set something on fire.
He logs on to Clark County’s ISpyFirework site each holiday and records the noise, but he worries nothing is done with the complaints.
“If you went out to the far end of West Charleston, out by Costco on the Fourth of July, from evening, dusk, until well after midnight, there’s nothing but aerial bursts and large blooms,” Porray said. “I’ve lived in Las Vegas since 1956. It has grown worse and worse every year.”
Residents are encouraged not to call local police, but the Metropolitan Police Department received more than twice as many firework complaints on Independence Day than New Year’s Eve last year, according to department data.
Meanwhile, Clark County data from 2019 to 2021 analyzed by the Las Vegas Review-Journal showed Independence Day fireworks spurred more than 61,000 complaints over three years in the days surrounding the Fourth of July, including almost 19,000 last year.
Each year, the county’s ISpyFireworks website continued to receive hundreds of complaints past midnight and into the next day’s pre-dawn hours. Residents self-report illegal fireworks near their homes.
Residents from across the valley reported fireworks, but some neighborhoods stood out with consistently more reports than others.
More than 3,600 complaints were logged in the 89139 ZIP code in three years. The southern valley neighborhood has large swaths of undeveloped land and lies near the intersection of the 215 Beltway and Interstate 15.
Jan Solas, whose house backs up to an open desert area near South Decatur Boulevard, said she can hear all the way to Green Valley Ranch’s firework show. In the 17 years she’s lived in the area, she couldn’t recall any fires or injuries as a result of illegal fireworks.
“It’s a day of celebration,” Solas said, defending those who may set off illegal fireworks. “There’s kids all around and they enjoy it.”
Clark County only allows “Safe and Sane” fireworks, which do not shoot into the air when they ignite or explode, and no fireworks are allowed after midnight on July 4. Safe and Sane fireworks included sparklers, fountains, firecrackers and fire department-approved fireworks that usually explode on the ground and not in the air.
More than 100 government-approved fireworks stands opened Tuesday and will remain in business through the holiday.
‘Every year there is an injury’
But illegal pyrotechnics have remained a problem, leading the county to launch the “You Light It, We Write It” ticketing campaign in 2018. Data was not immediately available on how many tickets have been issued by the county since the campaign was launched.
Clark County Fire Department inspector Martin Casillas was among dozens of inspectors checking the Safe and Sane firework stands on Tuesday for fire extinguishers and space between flammable objects like wires, cars and extension chords.
Casillas also will respond to emergency calls on the holiday and urged residents to be safe on what will be a busy night for the fire department.
“Every year we have a house fire and every year there is an injury,” he said. “We want to make sure and limit the amount of situations caused by fireworks. As it is, it’s going to be a busy night, and it’s going to be even busier if we continue with illegal fireworks.”
In 2019, Las Vegas Fire Department reported 76 outside fires between 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. on the Fourth of July. One juvenile was hospitalized for smoke inhalation.
Clark County Fire Chief John Steinbeck said his department’s calls increase tenfold over the holiday weekend. Firefighters battle garage and palm tree fires on the fourth, and respond to impaired driving crashes that lead to injuries throughout the weekend.
“It’s not like people are blowing their finger off all night, but we do have instances where people have certainly injured themselves severely with illegal fireworks,” he warned.
Although no one has been seriously injured by fireworks locally in at least two years, last month in Washoe County a man suffered a punctured lung and another had an illegal firework explode in his hand which caused “major deformities,” officials said.
Steinbeck urged residents to avoid nearby illegal firework vendors on tribal reservations, in Nye County and in neighboring states for several reasons.
“They’re illegal because of fire hazards, injuries, noise, disturbance of the peace, stress it puts on people with PTSD, anxiety and animals are continuously stressed out by it,” he said. “We simply want you to not go buy illegal fireworks and use them at all. We encourage you to go to shows and enjoy the 4th.”
The second-highest report volume came from 89031, a North Las Vegas neighborhood near Craig Ranch Regional Park.
Marie Pickrem has lived in the zip code for 30 years. She said her children and grandchildren visit every 4th of July and enjoy the nearby fireworks.
“Next to us puts on a lot, but they’re good neighbors so we would never report them,” she said.
Seth Havely said the streets near his house in 89031 are much quieter than his previous home in Southern California. He called the fireworks “background noise” and said he would never report a neighbor.
“I don’t mess with them; they don’t mess with me,” he said.
Tameka Flores said many of her neighbors in the 89031 area spend more than $2,000 at Moapa Paiute Travel Plaza purchasing fireworks.
She said she has never seen a fire in the area, and would discourage anyone calling emergency services over an illegal firework.
“I’d rather see them handle DUIs or violent crime than come for a firework,” she said.
North Las Vegas police Officer Alex Cuevas said calling the police to report fireworks doesn’t always result in an officer showing up, but if enough people call from a certain area officers will come out.
“It can take away from emergency response if there’s a true emergency,” he said.
Call logs from the Metropolitan Police Department showed about 950 people called to report fireworks from July 2 to July 7, 2021. The number of calls has consistently declined since 2018, when more than 1,600 people reported the noise. The department declined to comment.
A bill approved during the last legislative session raised the fine to at least $500 for illegal fireworks lit in Clark County. Large stockpiles can result in a fine of up to $10,000.
Contact Sabrina Schnur at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0278. Follow @sabrina_schnur on Twitter. Investigative reporter Michael Scott Davidson contributed to this story.