Thursday, July 5, 2012

Massive Illegal Fireworks Display Endangers Hundreds in Harold Washington Park: No Police Presence

-posted by chicago pop

"For Licensed Display Operators Only": 108 Shots Diamond in the Sky

Immediately after the City of Chicago's fireworks display came to an end a little before 9:30 this evening, a local entrepreneur - or, more likely, a number of them - decided to illegally keep the show going in the open area of Harold Washington Park directly east of Regents Park apartments, near Lake Shore Drive and the pedestrian overpass at 51st Street (4th Ward - Burns). 

Some of the explosives, such as the tubes and large box pictured below, require a federal license to purchase and detonate, and the inventory of fireworks detonated probably cost $400-500 retail.

One of a half dozen fireworks installations, many professional grade 'Class B' barrages, left in the northern section of Harold Washington Park, on plywood sheets approximately 6'x4'.


 Illegal fireworks barrage with launch burns visible in the grass towards Lake Shore Drive

For approximately half an hour, the safety of hundreds of people on the lakefront and dozens of passing motorists was endangered by a barrage of powerful, professional-grade pyrotechnics shot off directly over their heads. 

The fireworks appear to have all been lit by hand, and within yards of 4th of July spectators. As of late on the evening of 4 July 2012, when these photographs were taken, the detritus was left scattered across the park grounds.

1.3 gram "Aerial Bombs" (license required for purchase), "Asian Sensation", "Never My Love," "Mammoth Strobe Mini"

Embers from the explosions in several instances fell directly onto the Drive, within feet of both observers and vehicles. 

According to the Chicago Municipal Code, any person wishing to obtain a permit for an outdoor fireworks display must, among other things, be licensed by the City, have a letter of consent from the Alderman (4th - Burns), be insured up to $1,000,000, and have the site inspected beforehand by Deputy Fire Commissioner. The ability to purchase 1.3G explosives (like the candy-cane colored "Aerial Bombs" pictured above and below) requires a federal license from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives


I am curious to know if tonight's pyrotechnicians had taken to trouble to meet any of these requirements.


"Z Shape Tomy Gun: 360 Shots"

During the entire period, there was no visible Chicago Police Department presence, or response to repeated 911 calls. Transporting and arranging fireworks of this size and number obviously required some time, and the effort of more than one person, none of which was detected beforehand.

29 comments:

Julie JL said...

...and they left all that garbage out there. I don't much mind the fireworks if they are operated safely (since many states do actually allow this type of home display and is deemed relatively safe when operated while sober), but I hate the littering. I sometimes feel like I live among rats. People have absolutely no respect for the world around them. I went running this morning and I lost count of the bottles, cans, and general trash left all over the place. Such a shame. We have a beautiful lakefront haven that is treated with utter disrespect.

Betsy said...

This is shocking, actually. You mention no response from Chicago Police. Just wondering if you also contacted UChicago police and what their response was. This might be worth taking to UChicago police even now to say, "Don't let it happen again."

Maxwell said...

But it was pretty

chicago pop said...

The reason 'home displays' of fireworks need to be permitted by the city is so that they can be operated safely (in coordination with the Fire Department, Streets and San, etc. Last night you couldn't even find a bike cop) - that's also why a federal permit is required to buy the big stuff. The fact that this was an illegal event means the safety risks to people in the vicinity were much higher - explosions very close, rockets veering this way and that - as they were last night. No safety precautions were taken, so while you are right to be concerned about garbage, it's definitely secondary issue.

chicago pop said...

According to Alderman Burns' office, it is virtually certain that last night's fireworks display was illegal. Streets and San would have been present to clean up after if it had been permitted. And professional grade fireworks, explosives controlled by the BAFTE, would not have been set off within yards of my family and others.

HPNeighbor said...

The office of Alderman Will Burns just confimed that this fireworks display was illegal -- no permit was issued to anyone for these fireworks. Burns' constituents' services person has informed Wentworth District #2 commander, Fred L. Waller, of the illegal event last night. Hopefully, more police will be in the area to prevent anything like it again next year. In the mean time and for the rest of the summer, please attend your community policing meetings to raise issues and work directly with your law enforcement officers to address issues in the parks.

Greg said...

Professional pyrotechnics companies typically soak down the surrounding grounds or the Fire Department does it for them. As hot and dry as the weather has been, these idiots are very lucky they didn't start Great Chicago Fire v2.0. The fires burning up half of New Mexico were started by one doofus with a shotgun and an incendiary round.

Schooled said...

It was a sweet show though as seen from the Point!

David Farley said...

So... 4th of July in Pilsen next year, anybody?

HParker said...

Nice show! We enjoyed every second of it. It's too bad that the city diverted the budget to other things and canceled the barges. Lots of people loved the show. Thank you to the brave people who put it on.

chicago pop said...

It's quite encouraging to see the overall level of moral maturity demonstrated by the (all male, so far) connoisseurs of big explosions set off in public spaces against city and federal law, which apparently are felt to be a holiday entitlement in a time of budgetary crisis. ("Too bad that the city diverted the budget to other things and canceled the barges"? Here is a Fourth of July Robin Hood with a clear sense of policy priorities, come to the rescue of the masses). That level of analysis begins and ends with oneself ("I loved it!"). It would be interesting to go through the city code with this crew and see what they decide to toss out because it's "no fun."

I, too, can attest that lots of people enjoyed the show; I can also attest that many of them were idiots and would have been quite surprised had they or their kid had their face disfigured by a stray rocket. Who do you think the "brave people" who entertained you really are? Members of the HPKCC? The Board of Bank Financial or the University of Chicago? Folks who can either get Class B fireworks illegally, or can afford to dump some $500 or more just to anonymously entertain the good, laid-back folks of Hyde Park who just want to have fun? Maybe set up a playdate, and see how that goes.

Speaking of playdates, even some folks with small children didn't seem to think that the obvious danger was a problem, or their own safety, or the fact that virtually everything they saw was the product of theft, or felony or other responsible behaviors which evidently aren't being modeled to the children of Hyde Park: what is important, to judge from the above, is that people had a good time, as long as someone (else) took the risks (and bore the cost) to endanger others but satisfy us.

David Farley said...

Are you telling us you didn't like the fireworks?

chicago pop said...

It's rather that I don't care for the way sparkling lights and big pops melt the brains of otherwise reasonable people. But that may just be the human condition.

David Farley said...

I have to admit I live right down the street and heard nothing other than the usual 4th of July noise. But had I heard something I probably would have walked up to watch it.

HParker said...

Pops, the moral righteousness that is seeping from your post is kinda cooling me off on this hot night. Not really though since it's seething with all sorts of moral condemnation.

I think a lot of you have your panties in a bunch and need to ratchet it down a few notches. No harm, no foul. This is really not a big deal in the grand scheme of things.

I'm not really concerned about "city codes" since they are arbitrarily and capriciously applied. Seriously, if you weren't there, do you really care? We did attend and determined that it was not the crisis you are making it out to be.

Personally, I would like to thank the nice fire-shooters who were responsible for this.

HParker said...

Oh--and let's go ahead and dedicate our public resources to stopping these all "oh-so-terrible" shenanigans. The police here are taxed enough.

Meh. I've lived overseas for years--can't come to terms with what the big deal is here. There are a million configurations of the "what-if" scenario bs. What is I get struck by lightning while I'm sleeping in my curtained room tonight.

pdhaudio83 said...

Seriously. People risk their lives everyday- walking across a street I could get smashed to smithereens. Walking in an alley I could get shot. A #6 bus that I'm in could get in a major accident. I think you're really overreacting, sans the trash, which seems to be a community motto here.

Life is dangerous. While I see your point, you're grossly overreacting.

Jerry said...

I am always amazed when I look at the horizon in Chicago on July 4th and can see obviously illegal fireworks on every inch of it. Thousands and thousands of displays. Yes they are pretty but illegal and the Police do not crack down probably because they are busy busting murderers and arsonists and the like. The real problem with Chicago is that a large number of it's citizens simply don't think the law applies to them. Or they don't care because they know that the chances that they will get caught are small. I regularly see punk drivers casually driving through stop signs through multiple intersections in Hyde Park/Kenwood without even attempting to slow down. I see people dump their KFC bones out the window into the parking lot or throw their trash in the park only 5 feet from a garbage can. Plain sight drug deals, etc. The problem is entitled poor welfare sloths. These people have been given everything in their lives, free housing, free soda, free chips, free landscaping, free health care, etc. They are cleaned up after and given the benefit of the doubt when they need to be held responsible for their actions. Chicago police are nearly all fat and lazy dolts(yes, I said it). They congregate for hours on shots fired calls and hang around playing grab ass instead of doing their jobs efficiently. They need to crack down on all the minor offenses and then criminals will think twice about committing more serous crime. If you let the little things go then it creates an atmosphere of anything goes. That is our problem.

chicago pop said...

The fact that HParker detects moral condemnation means that it has reached its target, though he is in error to claim that this blogger was not present at the fireworks, and provides further grounds for targeted condemnation by dismissing laws, whether municipal, state, or federal, that may cramp his style.

I do indeed condemn flip dismissals of the law. On this point I agree with Jerry that a large problem is the sense that 'the rules don't apply to me,' with 'me' being the key term in how these objections are formulated. HParker could try to make this argument at the District 2 CAPS meeting next Tuesday.

To pdhaudio83, I'm afraid don't see your point. The fact that you seem willing to entertain your own death at any instant in no way implies that we should not be concerned to prevent the sorts of events you describe from happening to others - which is clearly the intention behind federal licensing requirements of professional grade fireworks and city permit regulations.

chicago pop said...

Jerry wrote: If you let the little things go then it creates an atmosphere of anything goes. That is our problem.

I do think there is something to this.

HParker said...

The assumption here are over the top. If you know the pyrotechnicians as well as you insinuate, why weren't you able to dissuade them from putting on the show or at least relocating it to the midway?

(Tongue and cheek of course--but given all the presumptions in your posts, it seems a reasonable conclusion: they were severely intoxicated, all of the fireworks were stolen, etc.). How do you know any of this? In your last post, you say that you did witness the show. Why didn't you take cover when you felt your life was in danger?

chicago pop said...

None of those presumptions is as presumptuous as HParker's insistence that his hedonism takes precedence over the law.

ScottM said...

I must admit I've missed this lively HPP commentary...

The lack of police presence though can be directly related to the gutting of the CPD in recent years, with manpower down by over 2000. Sadly the current administration has decided to leave Hyde Park mainly to the wolves to by merging our "local" police station with a much larger (and more needy) district. UCPD may have full police powers but I always get a sense they're not really fully equipped to use them (especially with large crowd issues.)

Greg said...

I think whoever put on the fireworks show is one of the folks commenting here.

HParker said...

If that is the case, Greg, I wish they'd let their email/s be known. I would like to personally thank them--ya know, being the reckless and self-indulgent person that I am.

chicago pop said...

Yes, that is a very good idea.

Greg said...

I would love to see the Chicago Police take a more proactive stance, like the force in New York City. If we lack the funding for additional officers, then it's time that the mayor show the same creativity for funding this critical service, as he has in many other instances when initiatives were a priority for his administration.

Greg said...

HParker, maybe you could also suggest to them that next year, instead of firing off a few hundred dollars of flammable materials in the middle of a field during one of the driest summers in recent history, they could set off their fireworks from the concrete coffins at The Point out over the lake. Typically, tinderbox-dry vegetation burns much more readily than concrete and water and if they're going to break the law they could at least be responsible about it. Feel free to ignore this request if it will lessen your personal enjoyment.

Lilithcat said...

I'm sure HParker has no objection if his own property is threatened, but what about the rest of us?

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/suburbs/orland_park/ct-met-fireworks-brush-fires-20120710,0,3670974.story