FONTANA (CBSLA) – Following last month’s massive fireworks explosion in an Ontario neighborhood which left two men dead and caused millions of dollars in damage, San Bernardino County Thursday unveiled a new illegal fireworks reporting system.
The San Bernardino County Fire Protection District and other local law enforcement agencies held a news conference Thursday morning to announce the launch of the new system which allows the public to report illegal fireworks.
“It’s not getting better, but I tell you what is happening: is more of you are speaking up, if you’re seeing something, you’re saying something,” Fontana Mayor Acquanetta Warren said. “We’re trying to make it as easy as possible for you to deliver that message.”
Once a complaint is filed, it alerts law enforcement to conduct a follow-up investigation. Then the reports go into a database designed to assist agencies in “targeting the problem areas, thus focusing our patrol and interdiction resources to those specific areas,” SBCFPD said in a news release.
“Thousands of man hours, we put our firefighters and police officers at risk for fireworks, for a celebration of our independence in this country,” San Bernardino County Fire Marshal Mike Horton said. “It’s taken a total turn. Fireworks have a larger profit margin than drugs do these days.”
On the afternoon of March 16, multiple explosions occurred at a property at San Antonio Avenue and Maple Street, sending terrified neighbors scrambling for safety. The initial explosion had the magnitude of a bomb blast, followed by a series of ensuing explosions.
Two cousins were killed on the property and three others were hurt. The blasts sent debris covering 80 properties and caused an estimated $3.2 million in damage.
The surrounding neighborhood was under evacuation for several days after the blast while bomb technicians combed through the debris field, collected dozens of unexploded ordnance. The fireworks were too volatile to remove, so the bomb squads filled dumpsters with fireworks and set them off at the property where the initial explosion occurred.
Investigators were looking into the possibility that the home whether the explosion occurred was a so-called “trap house,” a place where illegal fireworks are sold. Investigators are unsure about whether the fireworks were being made at or sold from the home, only that there was a very large supply.
Neighbors told CBSLA that they area is rife with illegal fireworks. CBSLA filed a public records request and found that Ontario police had responded to 50 illegal fireworks calls within a one block radius of the home in the past year, about one call per week.
Authorities did not provide an update on the investigation Thursday.