Every July 4th, for many of the previous decade, ns log on come Twitter and also start retweeting every picture and video I can uncover of palm trees accidentally set on fire by illegal fireworks.

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As with most social media activity conducted compulsively and without regard to consequences, I would not describe my searchable document of commentary approximately palm trees and Independence job as particularly intellectual or even especially moral.

July 2014: “RIP palm tree in LA, I’ll miss you”

July 2015:


July 2017: “the palm trees died so we could live”

July 2018: “as a young child, I always dreamed of very closely associating my personal identity/professional brand with palm tree fires. In Los Angeles, anything is possible”

July 2019: “Flaming palm tree: the official symbol that the city of Los Angeles.”

July 2020: “not embarrassing to admit that the only reason i have downloaded the Citizen app is to detect L.A. Palm tree fires”

Like noþeles done as a gag for also long, the schtick becomes associated with you, which I have actually mixed feel about. Ns don’t particularly enjoy the believed of flaming palm trees. (I favor trees, dislike destruction, worth durability.) I likewise have blended feelings around randomly retweeting net strangers with small follower counts who write-up a photograph of a tree fire, even when their captions room something like “fireworks recorded the palm tree top top fire lol” or “MY you are fool NEIGHBORS recorded THE TREE on FIRE.” It’s typically pleasant to just hang out online and post arbitrarily stuff until some horrible, surprising, controversial instance arises that centrally entails you, and also lots the strangers space suddenly watching you very closely with extreme interest.


You can fully oppose palm tree fires while having actually a love/hate relationship with palm trees themselves, together Los Angeles has had for the critical century.

Most L.A. Palms, like most of L.A."s peoples, space immigrants come this place, not indigenous from the moment of the Tongva, before the colonizers came. In the 1800s and also 1900s, new Angelenos hauled in palms indigenous elsewhere approximately the world, scrying in the fronds some reminder the the Mediterranean or the asian brim the the Pacific, together Jared Farmer recounted in his publication “Trees in Paradise.” (Even prior to Hollywood to be Hollywood, plenty of locals looked at southern California and saw something else.) when planted in neighborhoods and business districts around town — ~ above public and also private building alike — the decades crossed and palm trees quit signifying every little thing else and started signifying L.A. Itself.

But palm trees, when they room not gift symbols, are type of a problem to live with. Some human being think they’re as well tall, specifically the spindly Mexican pan palms (Washingtonia robusta), which can reach 100 feet, towering over some low-slung buildings like they’re practically in short orbit. They don’t provide shade, i m sorry is a difficulty as the world gets hotter and less trusted to human survival. Palm fronds have the right to tear away and tumble towards pedestrians below; in the best-case scenario, when the frond doesn’t hit anyone or a car, it i do not care litter.


Here’s among the best moral cases against palm trees: Palm trees death workers, largely Latino tree trimmers, in some of the most horrible work-related crashes you could imagine. Here is a perform of some of the victims and also causes of palm tree worker deaths in the state, gathered by the California Fatality Assessment and also Control evaluation program: Tree trimmer (Hispanic male) is electrocuted if trimming a palm tree, 2018; landscaper (Hispanic male) die from asphyxia as soon as compressed by palm fronds, 2016; two tree trimmers (Hispanic males) die once they room electrocuted while pollinating day palm trees, 2016; tree trimmer (Hispanic male) die from asphyxia when compressed by palm fronds, 2012; tree trimmer (Hispanic male) dies when he is crushed through palm tree fronds, 2012; tree trimmer (Hispanic male) dies once he is crushed by palm tree branches, 2010.

Accidents room not distinct to palm trees, however the dangers posed through palm fronds are. “What happens is the palms, as soon as they get to a an extensive size, 40, 50, 60 feet tall, the reduced fronds stay attached to the trunk, however up above, that high, those fronds end up being interlocked,” claims Jose Mercado, executive, management director and lead instructor of the spain Arborist Assn. Once tree trimmers climb the palm trunks and cut fronds from below, those fronds deserve to suddenly slough downward and pin and suffocate the tree trimmer against the trunk. “It’s yes, really tragic once fire departments can not reach the victims.”

Mercado started his organization a few years earlier with a friend after being disturbed by so countless palm tree worker deaths. “We felt that there was just a an excellent need for added training in people’s native language, gift Spanish because that the many part.”

One reason so many workers should do the highly dangerous work-related of trimming palm tree is since the dried fronds have the right to be a large fire hazard. “Palm trees space a big threat, since many time they have huge fronds, and tons of times they fall embers ~ above roofs in surrounding areas,” claims Nicholas Prange, spokesman because that the Los Angeles Fire Department.

In southern California Edison’s wildfire mitigation setup from February, the utility determined 80,000 palm tree in the an ar that make a difficulty to that operations: "(1) the palm is a significant driver of emergent work and outages (e.g., palm fronds fall onto major wire); (2) the palm represents a wildfire threat, as dead palm fronds are very flammable and also are easily blown long distances by winds; and also (3) the palm is fast-growing (upwards) and may call for multiple trims every year to keep compliance.” In other words, palm trees knock out your power, start fires the threaten her home, and also they’re a huge pain come take care of even when they’re not doing any of those things.

The energy estimated about 40% of the palms compelled workers rise them to trim. Eventually, that said, trees close to power currently would simply need to be removed. “However,” the report added, “customers have proven to be really resistant come removals.” also when palm trees are killing us, it’s tough to live there is no them.

On my edge the Koreatown, the skyline outside my kitchen window is conquered by rows ~ above rows of fan palms that line the streets, towering end beige apartment rooftops. I have the right to tell where an intersection is due to the fact that crisscrossing rows that fronds do the form of a cruciform in the air. Lock look good on Instagram.

When the Santa Ana winds come crashing in evilly, the fronds rustle in protest and also sometimes come to be projectiles, yet in a way, it feels pretty to it is in warned of transforming conditions. I additionally know this: for the year i was confined by this home window by the COVID-19 pandemic, including that grim December when almost all I can hear were ambulance sirens, the never-ending view external would have actually been much lonelier without the palms around.

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Which bring us earlier to July 4th. As soon as illegal fireworks light palm tree on fire, it’s a meeting of two things that, because that the benefits of human health and also safety, possibly shouldn’t it is in here. Firework palm tree fires happen due to the fact that of our very own frailties. When they do, we can’t assist but rigid at this unnatural prize of home, of us, being beautiful and terrible.