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EDITORIAL: During fireworks season, we must obey law, use common sense and show courtesy

YORK DISPATCH EDITORIAL BOARD
  • Under state law, fireworks are barred within 150 feet of any occupied structure.
  • From May 21 through June 24, York County 911 had 424 fireworks-related calls.
  • In 2018, 9,100 patients nationally were treated for fireworks injuries in emergency rooms.
Big Fireworks manager Leslie Wilson loads shelves at the store in Glen Rock Thursday, June 25, 2020. She said sales are about 4 to 5 times more than the previous year since many municipalities have canceled fireworks due to pandemic restrictions this year. Bill Kalina photo

The Fourth of July holiday is looming.

That means there will be fireworks — lots of fireworks.

Some of those fireworks displays will be safe, legal and fun. Unfortunately, many more will be dangerous, illegal and contentious.

The latter situation can — and almost certainly will — lead to police calls, serious injuries and neighborhood arguments.

What makes that so sad is that nearly all of those issues could be avoided if folks simply used some common sense and courtesy.

Fireworks complaints continue to rise in York County

Largely illegal: The first thing to remember is that fireworks are largely illegal in neighborhoods.

Under a 2017 state law, fireworks are barred within 150 feet of any occupied structure. In densely populated municipalities, such as York City, that renders fireworks ostensibly prohibited in any area.

Your next-door neighbors often won’t share your love of the noise that comes with fireworks, especially late at night.

For example, a New Salem man is facing charges after pulling a gun on his neighbor during a dispute over a firework that was set off May 31 in the borough.

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Complaints are on the rise in York County, forcing York City to create a patrol unit to tackle illegal fireworks use.

"People are out of control," York City Mayor Michael Helfrich said. "This is not fair to the people of York City."

Dangerous: The second thing to remember is that fireworks can be very dangerous, especially in the wrong hands.

That 2017 law permitted Pennsylvanians to purchase and use fireworks that could contain up to 50 milligrams of explosive materials, with some restrictions. The wisdom of that law now seems dubious, at best. A 50-milligram firecracker is a very treacherous thing, especially for inexperienced users and those who have enjoyed a couple adult beverages.

You can still see fireworks on the Fourth of July in York County

In 2018, there were five nonprofessional fireworks-related deaths and an estimated 9,100 patients were treated for fireworks injuries in hospital emergency rooms nationwide, the Consumer Product Safety Commission reported.

Fireworks also start more than 18,500 fires per year and cause an average of $43 million in direct property damage, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

Those are some scary numbers.

Police have better things to do: Finally, we must realize that our police officers have much more important things do, rather than issue warnings for illegal fireworks or settling disputes between neighbors.

From May 21 through June 24, York County 911 had 424 fireworks-related calls, including 315 noise complaints, county spokesperson Mark Walters said recently. During Fourth of July celebrations last year, there were 237 fireworks-related complaints in York County between July 1 and July 4 alone.

And it’s not just a York County problem. In New York City, which was hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic, Mayor Bill de Blasio established a task force this week to crack down on illegal sales. In June, fireworks complaints soared to 13,109 in the Big Apple, compared to 32 complaints at the same point in June 2019, ABC News reported.

During the pandemic, bored folks are apparently firing off fireworks because there’s little else to do, and they care little about the pesky legalities of their actions.

As result, a lot of police time, that could be spent on more serious issues, is being wasted on fireworks disputes.

So, as the Fourth of July approaches, do yourself and your neighbors three big favors — know and obey the law, use some common sense and display a little human courtesy.

That will be three huge steps in solving our fireworks problems.