Explosive Experience: How Illegal Fireworks Almost Blasted Me Out of My 20th-Floor Apartment (And Why My Cats Are Still Hiding Under the Bed)
On the night of July 4th, 2018, I was in my apartment at The Vermont in Koreatown when illegal firework mortars started exploding right outside my window on the 20th floor. The massive amount of explosive materials being set off on the street below was almost too much for my apartment to handle. My cats were less than impressed with the spectacle, and I can't blame them. Despite the danger, I couldn't resist capturing the colorful chaos with my camera. And let's just say, it was an explosive experience!
As a photographer, I was unable to resist capturing the beauty of this event. I took several shots, some of which turned out to be spectacular, but I was also terrified that the next explosion would shatter my window. Thankfully… it didn’t.
But what about the science behind fireworks? Let's take a closer look and nerd out a bit.
The Chemistry of Fireworks
Fireworks are a controlled explosion of various chemicals that produce heat, light, and sound. The main components of fireworks are fuel, oxidizer, and color-producing agents. The fuel and oxidizer create the explosion, while the color-producing agents create the different hues that we see in the sky.
Some common oxidizers used in fireworks include potassium perchlorate, potassium nitrate, and ammonium perchlorate. These chemicals react with the fuel, which is typically charcoal or sulfur, to produce an explosion. The explosion produces heat, which excites the color-producing agents and creates the beautiful colors that we see.
The color-producing agents are usually metal salts, such as strontium, copper, and sodium, which produce red, blue, and yellow colors, respectively. The size of the metal particles determines the color intensity and duration.
The Illegal Firework Industry in Los Angeles
Los Angeles has been grappling with the problem of illegal fireworks for years. The open-air markets that spring up in the weeks leading up to July 4th are a testament to the scale of the issue. These markets sell everything from firecrackers to mortars, and they are often located in densely populated areas.
The problem is compounded by the fact that the use of illegal fireworks is widespread and enforcement is difficult. The Los Angeles Police Department has a task force dedicated to cracking down on illegal fireworks, but the scale of the issue is immense.
As a photographer, I was thrilled to capture the beauty of fireworks displays, even the one that almost gave me a heart attack at The Vermont in Koreatown. The fact that the illegal firework mortars were exploding right outside my window on the 20th floor only added to the adrenaline rush and the danger of the experience.
Here's a gallery of fireworks I have photographed over the years, including some from the unforgettable July 4th, 2018 display at The Vermont on Wilshire. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.