Historic Gardena fireworks bust is so huge, state bomb unit and ATF are called in to help

Fireworks explode over La Jolla Cove from a previous Independence Day celebration and will light up the sky again after a two-year absence.
Pyrotechnics are seen over La Jolla Cove. A recent bust in Gardena included large fireworks, some up to 8 inches in diameter. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

For the record:
8:21 p.m. June 25, 2024: An earlier headline for this article referred to the LAPD. The agency was the Gardena Police Department.

Millions of dollars worth of fireworks were seized from an illegal operation in Gardena in one of the biggest fireworks busts in state history, authorities said.

The fireworks cache was so massive — more than 75 tons — that representatives from the state's arson and bomb unit as well as the Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms and Explosives and the Los Angeles Police Department were called in to help local police process and dispose of it, Gardena police said. The street value of the fireworks was estimated between $7 million to $10 million.

Several people were taken into custody during the raid Friday at a warehouse in the 17000 block of Vermont Avenue.

Alejandro Rodriguez, 44, of Wilmington; Natalie Navarro, 30, of Carson; and Daniel Gudino, 25, of Wilmington, were arrested on suspicion of possession of explosives and weapons-related charges, police said.

Some of the fireworks measured up to 8 inches in diameter — roughly the same as a bowling ball. More than 2,000 illegal destructive devices and 10 pounds of bulk homemade explosives were also confiscated, according to a joint statement from the Gardena Police Department and Cal Fire's Office of the State Fire Marshal Arson and Bomb Unit.

No other information about the seizure was made available, given the pending criminal investigation. Anyone who has information about the case is asked to contact the Cal Fire bomb unit at arsonbomb@fire.ca.gov.

Read more: 'Total catastrophic failure': LAPD faces questions over fireworks explosion that hurt 17

Last year, the Los Angeles Police Department seized 38,000 pounds of illegal fireworks from a South Los Angeles warehouse.

That raid came two years after the LAPD injured 17 people and damaged 35 properties while trying to detonate a stash of fireworks in a South L.A. neighborhood, displacing dozens of residents.

With the Fourth of July approaching, Cal Fire is reminding the public that it is illegal to sell, transport or use fireworks that don't carry the "Safe and Sane" seal. Fireworks also can't be set off in communities that prohibit them. Depending on the offense, violators of fireworks laws could face up to a year in jail and fines of up to $50,000 if convicted.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.