EDITORIAL: Time to repeal or amend 2017 state law and rein in use of consumer fireworks

YORK DISPATCH EDITORIAL BOARD
  • A single firework caused about $65,000 in damage and displaced two Penn Township families on Sunday.
  • Last year, between July 1 and July 5, York County 911 received 653 fireworks-related calls.
  • Last year on July 4, York City responded to 12 different fires caused by fireworks.
  • Those 12 York City fires in 2021 caused an estimated $170,000 in damage.
Red Lion July 3rd Fireworks seen from Fairmount Park in Red Lion, Friday, July 3, 2020. Dawn J. Sagert photo

This weekend, we’ll celebrate our nation’s independence.

The Fourth of July weekend is a time that should be joyous.

Unfortunately, it’s a time that will almost certainly turn tragic.

The reason? Fireworks.

In fact, in our little neck of the woods, things have already turned disturbing.

Hanover fire chief: Firework caused blaze that displaced two Penn Twp. families

A single firework caused about $65,000 in damage and displaced two Penn Township families on Sunday. Luckily, there were no injuries, but somewhere in the United States over the next week, there will almost certainly be fireworks-related injuries, maybe even fatalities.

That’s why it’s imperative that everyone should take the utmost care when operating fireworks.

Yes, they are beautiful and fun to watch, but they are also incredibly dangerous, especially for novice users and especially when mixed with alcohol or drugs. That can be a deadly combination.

A city danger: Fireworks should especially be avoided in crowded neighborhoods. The danger is obvious. It can also ruin the quality of life.

Shooting off fireworks late at night, when your neighbors are trying to get some rest before going to work the next day, or trying to keep their infant asleep, is decidedly discourteous. Folks with animals, especially dogs, also are not big fans of neighborhood fireworks. The loud bangs can leave animals under severe stress. Humans with trauma issues also can find fireworks disturbing.

Plus, the use of fireworks is flat-out illegal in many areas — particularly in York City. For years, fireworks have caused a slew of noise complaints. Last year, between July 1 and July 5, York County 911 received 653 fireworks-related calls, including 527 noise complaints. This year will almost certainly bring more of the same.

The city will again have extra patrols of police and firefighters to cite residents setting off illegal fireworks.

Still, our advice is to leave the fireworks demonstrations to the experts. There are multiple locations in the region over the next week where you can safely take your family to see fireworks shows.

The 2017 law: Officials say that fireworks-related complaints exploded after Gov. Tom Wolf signed legislation in 2017 that permitted the purchase and use of fireworks that could contain up to 50 milligrams of explosive materials, with some restrictions. Those restrictions include any fireworks used within 150 feet of any occupied structure, meaning they're essentially not legal in any part of York City.

'People ... are suffering': 2017 fireworks law causes headaches, complaints and fires, but there's no hurry to repeal it

That, unfortunately, does not stop folks from using those kinds of fireworks wherever and whenever they please.

Because of that, we believe it is time to repeal, or at least amend the 2017 law. It’s obvious that it’s worsened an already dangerous situation. We would also encourage local municipalities to further regulate the use of consumer fireworks. Such local regulations are permitted under the 2017 state law.

There’s speculation that Wolf doesn't support reversing the 2017 legislation because of the revenue that it brings in. The 12% tax imposed on fireworks sales were projected to raise $7.4 million in fiscal year 2019-20.

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Well, it’s become clear that the damages and injuries aren’t worth the added revenue. For example, on July 4 alone in York City last year, emergency officials responded to 12 different fires caused by fireworks, which caused an estimated $170,000 in damage.

That’s just one city in one day. Multiply that across multiple days in multiple cities across the state and you get a frightening situation.

That why it’s time to rein in the use of consumer fireworks. They’ve become a clear and present danger to our safety and quality of life.