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DC shuts illegal fireworks display featured in article but many more continue

'Grumpy jerk' is accused of ordering the shut down

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Previously: News article highlights a July 4th safety & ethical dilemma in the Nation’s Capital

Check out the video (above) taken by Danielle Marie. It was shot from 4th and D in Southwest Washington looking north. It’s a seven-second time-lapse over about three to four minutes. Keep in mind it’s illegal for the public to possess or use any aerial fireworks in the District of Columbia. What do you see?

To me, that video shows the current law doesn’t have much in the way of teeth. In addition to the visual evidence, the DC Fire & EMS Department reports 89 fires were started by fireworks on July 4th. Luckily, none sparked a building fire. Eight people were hurt by fireworks.

While there were countless illegal displays across the city, one with a long tradition didn’t go on as advertised via a news article published on Tuesday. You may recall that I asked yesterday (Wednesday) about the ethics and safety of allowing the display put on by Mack James and family to continue after James was quoted in the article as saying police and fire officials usually ride by or stop to watch his decades old display. News reports now confirm various tweets that DC police officers moved in and shut down the show just as it began last night in the 3500 block of 13th Street in Columbia Heights.

Report by Paul Wagner WTTG-TV/FOX5

Report by Mark Segraves WRC-TV/NBC4

At least one blog and a few tweets put the blame on the shut down of the 13th Street show on a “grumpy jerk” who is a “keyboard commando vigilante nerd.” That guy sounds like a real asshole. Oh, sorry. They are talking about me.

You can read the entire post and my response here. One thing that isn’t in my response that I pointed out on Twitter is the chances of DC officials listening to a washed-up reporter who doesn’t live in the City are about as likely as them reacting positively to all my complaints about DC’s 911 system over many decades (for those who don’t follow closely, with the exception of one situation that was completely by accident, they pretty much ignore me).

The news reports about 13th Street leave unanswered some important questions. Did the DC Police Department visit Mack James prior to 9:30 p.m.? Considering the news article by Rachel Sadon at DCist and years of police failing to enforce fireworks laws it seems like that would a reasonable thing to do to avoid a confrontation.

But there’s a bigger question that DC officials should answer. Now that they’ve shut down this one show, what about all the others that terrorize some neighbors and thrill others? Some of those displays were just blocks from the James family home. When will there be some teeth and real enforcement behind the fireworks laws? Or should they just get rid of the laws and make legal what’s been going on anyway?

If there is a will to deal with this, it can be done. Rudy Giuliani proved that when he became mayor of New York City (just a statement of fact and not an endorsement). I witnessed the before and after and the change was dramatic. To stop this fireworks free-for-all would require a concerted effort to halt the supply. It might even mean an investigation of the entire fireworks industry in Washington. Of course that could be a problem. About a decade ago, after showing off a seizure of a significant amount of illegal fireworks, DC Fire & EMS Department Chief Dennis Rubin told reporters it was time to stop selling all fireworks in DC. The District of Columbia bans only fireworks that move or explode after being ignited. The Rube found out quickly his proposal was a non-starter. The fireworks lobby in DC is fairly strong and had the ears of many City Council members.

So, Mr. Grumpyjerkkeyboardcommandovigilantenerd wants to know. Will the video from 4th and D SW next July 4th look just like the one this year or will DC’s elected officials finally demand a crackdown on suppliers and those making the Nation’s Capital a dangerous place to be on Independence Day?

Another way to put this is was the stink this year finally enough to bring action or is everyone just going to have to wait for a major fire and/or a tragedy involving seriously injured innocent bystanders?


Police officials say they received a 911 call asking them to respond to the area Wednesday night around 9:30 p.m. D.C. fire officials say they were alerted to the illegal display by the article in the DCist.

The District is very clear on what types of fireworks are legal and illegal posting a specific breakdown online. D.C. firefighters also responded to a dumpster fire Wednesday night they say was ignited by illegal fireworks.

It is unclear if any arrests were made at the display or if anyone is facing charges.

Read entire article

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