Pre-holiday fireworks prompt complaints, warning from fire chief

There have been numerous complaints from the public about the illegal use of fireworks well before the permitted hours on New Year’s Eve.

According to the Hawaii Police Department incident log, dispatchers logged 19 calls complaining about fireworks on Christmas Day alone. There were, however, no arrests on the booking log for illegal fireworks usage.

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Hawaii County Fire Chief Darren Rosario said in a statement Friday his department also has received numerous complaints about fireworks and homemade explosive devices that disturb residents, pets and livestock.

Particularly affected by loud fireworks are the elderly, the infirm and people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.

“The problem seems to be growing in various neighborhoods, and it poses a potential hazard,” said Rosario. “We urge the community to be considerate of their neighbors by not using illegal fireworks or explosives.”

Rosario noted that hefty fines and penalties, including imprisonment, can be levied.

The use of illegal fireworks may be a felony punishable by up to five years of imprisonment upon conviction, and fines of up to $2,000 per offense. Another statute notes that parents, guardians and other persons having the custody or control of a minor who knowingly allow the minor to explode any fireworks may be held liable. Liability may also extend to a homeowner, renter, or person otherwise responsible for real property who knowingly allows an individual to explode any aerial device while on the real property.

Firecrackers, which require a permit, and other fireworks sold by local retailers may only be used during a limited period from 9 p.m. New Year’s Eve to 1 a.m. New Year’s Day.

Tribune-Herald columnist Rochelle delaCruz waxed nostalgic in a piece published Monday about New Year’s Eve in Hawaii and how visitors and newcomers are surprised that fireworks are legal here, albeit within a limited time frame.

“And by Jan. 2, I guarantee there will be letters to the editor in all the island newspapers complaining about the noise, the smell, the smoke, how they couldn’t sleep, how their asthma acted up, how their pets went berserk,” delaCruz wrote.

It didn’t take that long. The Tribune-Herald received a letter the following day from Andrea Minor, a Papaikou resident.

Minor said she appreciates “Ms. delaCruz’s nostalgia for the good ol’ days of July 4th and fireworks, however times have changed.”

“It’s no longer a string of fireworks tied by your uncle, it’s an aerial bombardment that sounds like mortars. This island becomes a war zone, and we have a right to complain,” Minor wrote. “… I hear these things being lit off before Christmas, at all hours, and it continues well into January. If it was just firecrackers and small novelties, set off for 4 hours, yeah we could all deal with it. But the unexpected LOUD barrage for weeks, subjecting animals to this torture, both pets and wildlife, is just cruel.”

Minor added she “should not be forced to leave my home or drug my animals for your nostalgia.”

In addition to setting off fireworks outside of the specified times, it’s also illegal to: remove the power or pyrotechnic contents from any firework; throw fireworks from or at any vehicle; set off fireworks within 1,000 feet of any hospital, convalescent home, elderly care home, zoo, animal hospital or shelter, church while services are ongoing; on any school property without authorization from a school official; on any public highway, street, alley, sidewalk or park.

Also illegal are luminary devices, commonly called “sky lanterns” or “Hawaii lanterns,” or aerial devices such as bottle rockets, skyrockets, Roman candles, cakes, mortars or shells.

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It’s also illegal to offer for sale, sell or give fireworks to minors, or for any minor to possess, purchase, sell or set off fireworks, except under the immediate supervision of an adult.

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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