My first hint that something was wrong this morning was the extremely yellow sunlight coming in around the blinds as I got ready for breakfast, the color you expect right at sunrise or sunset, not after the sun’s already up. Once I walked outside it was clear there was a fire somewhere in the area, and as I walked around the building I could see smoke filling half the sky.
It only filled half the sky, though. The smoke rose from the fire near Glendora, at the base of the San Gabriel Mountains northeast of Los Angeles, and drifted south to Orange County before winds blew it west across Long Beach, San Pedro, and the Palos Verdes peninsula.
Off to the west of the plume, the skies remained clear. Clearer than usual, in fact, because high winds had blown all the smog out to sea over the last few days. To the north and west, the sky was a gorgeous blue, the mountains and distant city skyline crystal clear. (If you view the larger image on Flickr, you can spot downtown LA right next to the first telephone pole on the left.) Smoke in the southeast turned the sun orange, bathing the area in light more suited to the golden hour.
A few miles north and a bit later, this view looking south shows the clear blue northwestern sky reflected in the building, the smoky southern sky behind it, and another building lit orange by the smoky sunlight.
Most cities in Orange County have banned the sale and setting off of fireworks to and by the general public for safety reasons. Of course, fireworks are an Independence Day tradition, so most cities also put on professional displays on the Fourth of July.
But a lot of people like the hands-on experience of setting off fireworks themselves. This leaves them with three choices:
- Go somewhere where setting off your own fireworks is legal.
- Shrug it off.
- Sneak around and hope you don’t get caught.
#1 is getting harder all the time as more cities clamp down on fireworks. #2, I imagine, is unsatisfying. #3 is stupid, because chances are pretty good that you’ll either get unsafe fireworks, or use them unsafely (because you’re trying to hide the fact that you’re setting off explosives), and end up burning someone, or burning their house down, or starting a 75-acre brush fire because you went out into the boonies in hopes that no one would catch you, but didn’t think about the fact that you were surrounded by dry grass.
So here’s my proposal:
If you’re going to ban fireworks, instead of banning them outright, set aside a designated area where people can set them off themselves.. Fairgrounds and/or large parking lots would be good for this. The Great Park, perhaps? Keep fire crews on standby. Limit the number of people so that you can evacuate safely if something goes wrong. Limit the types of fireworks people are allowed to bring in so that it’s hard for them to bring in homemade crap that’s more likely to blow off their hands than make a nice show.
It will never happen in today’s litigious society, of course. The first time someone broke the rules and someone else got hurt, people would start suing the city because it should have been safe! Even if it was a private company running the event, they’d get sued, along with the property owner for allowing it to happen, and the city for allowing them to run it in the first place.
I keep putting off washing my car, then finally getting to it right before a freak storm…or the arrival of a giant cloud of ash. *grumble*