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Police Respond Often to Amateur Fireworks; Sales Still Soar

As we head into July Fourth celebrations later this week , the coupons and fliers for illegal fireworks are already in the mail.

For Phantom FIreworks, it's the busiest time of the year, marketing to New Yorkers, where shooting off fireworks without a permit is nonetheless still illegal.


Buffalo, NY (WBEN) Police agencies will no doubt be busy as the July 4th holiday approaches handling calls for fireworks going off. They remind you, shooting off your own fireworks is illegal in New York.

"Other years, we'll get two to three calls a night leading up to the 4th of July, but this year it's been quiet," says Cheektowaga Assistant Police Chief Jim Speyer. "Of course as you get closer to the 4th the number of calls increase, and we try to get to all of them."

In the Town of Tonawanda, Captain Joseph Carosi says dispatch calls would be given low priority as a nuisance call. "That depends on the number of calls that are holding, unless the fireworks cause to be a danger to people," Carosi explains.

Carosi says people coming in from other state with fireworks, but reminds them they are illegal in New York. "The penalty can be up to $100 in town court, more if you're a repeat offender," he reminds you.

Speyer says you can be charged with possession, and with $50 or more, it's viewed as possession with intent to sell, a more serious offense.

"It's busy, and the rest of the year, it's not busy, it's that simple," says Bob Weimer of Phantom Fireworks, based in Ohio, but with a retail stand over the border in Pennsylvania, ready to sell legally to New Yorkers who can't legally buy them.

He notes there's an uptick toward New Year's Eve, but consumer demand ramps up on Memorial Day through the Independence Day holiday.

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Are fireworks a nuisance in your neighborhood?
No, they don't bother me!
( 64% )
I'm the one using them!
( 7% )
Yes! They're annoying and dangerous!
( 30% )

Phantom's Weimer says fireworks are like spectator sports.

"Everybody loves to a baseball game and watch it, but people also like to go to the sandlot and play it. Same thing with fireworks, people love to go see them, and some love to shoot them off themselves," he explains.

Weimer says their sales to New Yorkers are legal, even if the purchasers are not.

Buyers at stores like his in Pennsylvania have to show identification, and sign an agreement to move the fireworks out of Pennsylvania -where the use is anned- within 48 hours.

"We then rely on the good faith of the customers to either obtain a permit or take the fireworks to a location where they are legal, but Pennsyvlania does not require us to ask about the state of destination," says Weimer.

Weimer notes there was a bid in New York to allow ground-based fireworks earlier this year, but it fizzled

From the US Consumer Protection Commission:

special study (pdf) conducted by US Consumer Product Safety Commission staff found that 65 percent of all fireworks injuries in 2011 were sustained during the 30 days surrounding the Independence Day holiday. More than half of these injuries were the result of unexpected ignition of the device or consumers not using fireworks as intended. Fireworks injuries most often resulted in burns to the hands and head, including the eyes, face, and ears. According to the special study, sparklers, firecrackers, and aerial devices were associated with the most incidents.

Whether it is the sparkle of the bright lights, or the thunderous boom of the explosion, there is no denying the thrill that fireworks can bring to an Independence Day celebration. Unfortunately, when consumers get their hands on professional fireworks, the results can be deadly. Last year, CPSC received reports of four consumers who were killed by either professional-grade or homemade firework devices, while an estimated 9,600 consumers were injured"

From the American Pyrotechnics Association......

"Consumption of fireworks in the United States has risen dramatically during the past three decades, from 41 million pounds in 1980 to over 205 million pounds in 2010. During this period of unprecedented growth, fireworks injuries have declined dramatically due to industry safety education efforts and the ever improving quality of its products. (See chart below)

Over the most recent decade, this downward injury trend continues even as an increasing number of states & municipalities have relaxed their consumer fireworks laws – in fact the injury rate was 43% lower in 2010 compared to 2000.

More states than ever before, 46 states plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico allow the sale and use of some types of consumer fireworks.

Rhode Island and Arizona were the most recent states to lift their stringent fireworks prohibitions to allow the sale and use of consumer fireworks, specifically hand-held and ground based sparkling devices such as sparklers, cones and cylindrical fountains and ground based cake or multiple tube fountains In 2010. Whereas Kentucky, Utah and New Hampshire modified their laws in 2011 to allow a broader variety of consumer fireworks to be sold than in previous years, to be followed by the states of Maine and Michigan in 2012.

“With the liberalization of consumer fireworks laws and record-breaking backyard fireworks usage, the number of fireworks-related injuries and fires has dramatically declined”, says Julie L. Heckman, Executive Director of the APA. The fireworks-related injury rate is 43% lower than it was in 2000, when the trend in relaxing consumer fireworks laws was first initiated"

.... and the National Fire Protection Association:

"Each July Fourth, thousands of people, most often children and teens, are injured while using consumer fireworks. Despite the dangers of fireworks, few people understand the associated risks - devastating burns, other injuries, fires, and even death.

Alliance to Stop Consumer Fireworks is a group of health and safety organizations, coordinated by NFPA, that urges the public to avoid the use of consumer fireworks and instead, to enjoy displays of fireworks conducted by trained professionals.  

In 2010, fireworks caused an estimated 15,500 reported fires, including 1,100 total structure fires, 300 vehicle fires, and 14,100 outside and other fires. These fires resulted in an estimated eight reported civilian deaths, 60 civilian injuries and $36 million in direct property damage.

In 2010, U.S. hospital emergency rooms treated an estimated 8,600 people for fireworks related injuries; 57% of 2010 emergency room fireworks-related injuries were to the extremities and 37% were to the head.

The risk of fireworks injury was highest for children ages 5-14, with more than twice the risk for the general population.

On Independence Day in a typical year, far more U.S. fires are reported than on any other day, and fireworks account for two out of five of those fires, more than any other cause of fires"

From the US Consumer Product Safety Commission


Fireworks Use and Injury Stats from the American Pyrotechnics Assoc:

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Locations : BuffaloNew YorkTonawanda
People : Jim SpeyerJoseph Carosi
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