Fireworks business good, but safety stressed as holiday approaches

Jun. 29—Paul Hertz stopped by the Keystone Fireworks Tent in Minersville on Tuesday.

This is the second year the 20-year-old Pottsville resident was at the site along Route 901.

He spent $ 165.31 for an assortment of fireworks he plans to shoot off with family out of the county.

Melissa Lytle, a clerk, said business has been good. Friday was the first day the tent was set up and July 6 will be the last. Items range in price from 99 cents for snappers up to $ 300 for the Mega Monster pack.

While fireworks that people can set off on their own remain popular, fire chiefs in Schuylkill County are urging people to use caution.

Tamaqua Fire Chief James F. Connely said Tuesday that overconfidence is the No. 1 mistake people make around fireworks.

“People think,’I know what I’m doing, I won’t get hurt,'” he said.

Even using sparklers can be dangerous, Connely said, noting they can burn at up to 1,200 degrees, and adults should be present around those using them.

“It is a dangerous product,” he said of fireworks in general.

In Minersville, a teen was injured in 2021 at the recreation complex when he touched a firework that hadn’t detonated correctly, Minersville Police Chief Michael Combs said.

The teen had multiple surgeries on his injured fingers, Combs said.

“People don’t realize the dangers associated with these things,” the chief said.

Injuries in 2021

There were 8,500 estimated fireworks-related injuries nationwide between June 18 and July 18 in 2021, according to a US Consumer Product Safety Commission report issued this month. Of those, adults age 25 to 44 account for 31% of the injuries; ages 15 to 24, 20%; ages 5 to 14, 20%; ages 45 to 64, 16%; ages 0-4, 9%; and those 65 or older, 4%.

In all, 59% injured were males and 41% females. Injuries to the hand / fingers, head, face and ear, and eye were the most common, the numbers show.

There were nine fireworks-related deaths in 2021, the CPSC said.

Law may change

Combs believes the state law passed in 2017 that allowed consumers to purchase more powerful items should be repealed. Roman candles, firecrackers and other fireworks fall into that category.

“It’s just too dangerous,” he said.

Pennsylvania lawmakers have heard that complaint. The House of Representatives voted 160-38 on June 8 in favor of legislation that would restrict fireworks use to 10 am to 10 pm except July 2-4 and Dec. 31, when they could be used until 1 am

There would be greater penalties for improper sales or illegal use under the bill, which the Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee passed 6-5 on June 20 and sent to the full chamber.

There is wide belief among firefighters that the 2017 law has resulted in more fires and fire deaths.

That law aimed to create a revenue source for the state and expanded what kinds of fireworks Pennsylvanians could use.

But in the years since it went on the books, state officials have received complaints from communities and law enforcement about noise and safety.

Under the proposed bill, people would have to give livestock owners or managers three days’ notice before fireworks could be used near an animal housing facility. Local municipalities would get more explicit authority to ban fireworks if their city or town doesn’t have a place where they can be used safely.

County, city calls

Scott Krater, Schuylkill County Communications Director, said the 911 center receives between 50 and 100 calls a year for firework complaints, mostly around the July Fourth holiday. Police are notified of the incidents.

“You’ve got to be careful,” Krater said.

Pottsville Police Chief Richard F. Wojciechowsky said that like any municipality the city has occasional complaints concerning fireworks and “our officers respond to each to ascertain the source and take whatever action is appropriate for each incident.”

City Fire Chief James Misstishin Sr. said a tree caught fire in 2021 on West Norwegian Street because someone set off fireworks nearby. The person responsible was not found. In 2020, fireworks damaged three vehicles and a carport in Mechanicsville on July 4.

Section 119.3 of city code says: “No person shall sell, use or discharge fireworks, firecrackers, rockets or other pyrotechnics in any public or private place in the city.” The ordinance was last amended in 2003.

State law prohibits the use of fireworks in the following circumstances:

—They cannot be ignited or discharged on public or private property without the express permission of the property owner.

—They cannot be discharged from or within a motor vehicle or building.

—They cannot be discharged toward a motor vehicle or building.

—They cannot be discharged within 150 feet of an occupied structure, whether or not people are actually present in the structure.

—They cannot be discharged by a person under the influence of alcohol, a controlled substance or other drug.

Contact the writer: amarchiano@republicanherald.com; 570-628-6023

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