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Monday, January 3, 2000



Police, fire chiefs
want import ban
on aerial fireworks

HPD's Donohue says the
existing law on fireworks
needs to be strengthened

By Rod Ohira
Star-Bulletin

Tapa

Honolulu's police and fire chiefs are seeking a ban on the importation of the type of aerial fireworks that lit up Oahu skies last week.

The madness, however, goes beyond fireworks.

Police made numerous arrests during the New Year's Day weekend for reckless endangering related to people shooting off guns.

One man was arrested in Pearl City for shooting an AR-15 assault rifle in the air, police said.

The bullets damaged some homes but did not cause any injuries.

Police Chief Lee Donohue urged lawmakers to make it illegal to bring in aerial fireworks.

"I grew up in Hawaii and understand culture but it's gotten to the point where we need to do something different in regards to fireworks," Donohue said.

"What we have is mass disobedience. If we went into strict enforcement of the law, we would have to arrest everybody. I don't think the community expects or wants the police department to do that."

Donohue favors a ban on the importation of aerial fireworks into Hawaii.

"It gives us a tool to work with," Donohue said, noting that the existing law needs to be strengthened.

"As long as you can bring in aerials legally, there's going to be problems.

"We've seen it increase through the years."

Fire Chief Attilio Leonardi agrees.

"It's the most I've ever seen here," Leonardi said of the aerial play on Oahu.

"The fun factor is being outweighed by the hazardous factor," he said.

"We saw a major increase in aerial fireworks play from before Christmas to after New Year's Day."

The Fire Department responded to 345 calls, of which 105 were fireworks related for a 72-hour period from New Year's Eve through last night, Leonardi said.

Property damage from 12 structure fires totaled $14,300, and one death was attributed to fireworks play, he added.

"HPD took an aggressive stance early and we were able to hook up with them," Leonardi said of the pre-New Year's raids on illegal firework sales.

Donohue says police arrested 10 adults and seven juveniles and issued 27 citations during a five-day period for blatant fireworks offenses.

"We had people blowing firecrackers on the beach at Waikiki," Donohue said.

"The officer warns them and they go down a couple of hundred yards and do it again. Those are the ones we arrested," he said.

Police fielded 2,595 fireworks-related complaints from Dec. 26 through last night, Donohue said.

Of the total, 629 were received Friday and 527 on New Year's Day.

"We had 2,507 calls of violations, 27 for criminal property damage, 10 fire calls, five injured calls and 46 that are classified under "others' for the period," he said.

"Obviously, much more went on," he said.

Donohue, who drove around the island New Year's Eve, said the most of the calls came from Windward Oahu, Kalihi, Waipahu, Ewa Beach and Waianae.

Robin McCulloch, chief of the Emergency Medical Services Division, says county ambulances responded to 164 calls on New Year's Eve and 206 on New Year's Day as compared to 152 and 194 calls, respectively, the year before.

"We average 123 calls a day," he added.

McCulloch says there were 30 cases of respiratory problems -- 18 on Dec. 31 and 12 on Jan. 1 -- and 54 fireworks-related injury calls, 27 on each day.



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