Wednesday, December 31, 2003

William Kahuanui restocked fireworks yesterday at Daiei on Kaheka Street. The store near Ala Moana was sold out of firecrackers and had only novelty items left last night.

Firecrackers gone

Record permit sales whittle down
supplies on Oahu and lead to
some price gouging

As sales of $25 permits to buy firecrackers soared this year on Oahu and the Big Island, stores ran out of the long strings of firecrackers many residents use to ring in the New Year.

Fireworks shows
start at midnight

Aloha Tower will ring in the new year with a 12-minute fireworks display over Honolulu Harbor at midnight.

Other midnight displays will be presented by:

>> Halekulani, off Waikiki Beach.
>> Ihilani Resort and Spa, over the Ihilani lagoon. For hotel guests only, but can also be seen from the coast.

There were reports of price gouging as several customers said a fireworks stand on Oahu was charging $50 to $75 for a string of fewer than 5,000 firecrackers.

Shopper Leif Mokuahi said he wouldn't buy a city permit until he found a store with firecrackers in stock.

"If you get (a store with firecrackers), then you send the wife to satellite city hall to get the permit. No waste your money," said Mokuahi, who got to Daiei on Kaheka Street last night after the store had run out of firecrackers. "If you no get there the first day, you out of luck."

Mokuahi bought fountains and other fireworks instead of firecrackers.

Supplies of fireworks other than firecrackers were selling briskly at Daiei, but the stock seemed to hold up.

Most stores were sold out of firecrackers that many longtime residents string up on poles and pop at midnight to chase away evil sprits.

Grocery Outlet on Dillingham Boulevard was one of the few places that still had firecrackers yesterday.

Manager Tom Ching said about 300 people were lined up to buy firecrackers when the store opened yesterday morning. Firecrackers should be sold out sometime this morning, he estimated.

"The day after Christmas, the demand was there," Ching said. He ordered 600 additional cases and was down to his last cases last night.

One man yesterday came with 64 permits, at a cost of $1,600, and spent about $1,000 more on fireworks, Ching said.

"My God, people have money to burn," Ching said. "It's astounding."

Customers lined up to buy fireworks yesterday at the Dillingham Grocery Outlet, one of the stores in town which saw a flood of customers.

"I thought I was going to be too late," said Alan Sildora, who got his $25 permit yesterday and spent a little over $20 to buy 5,000 firecrackers -- one long string and a couple of smaller packs. "I just got a house, so I gotta pop 'em."

Sildora said before coming to Grocery Outlet, he went to another fireworks stand, which was charging $75 for a similar string of firecrackers.

Sales of the permits to buy firecrackers and sales of the firecrackers themselves have been breaking records on Oahu and the Big Island since fireworks went on sale Friday.

On Oahu, more than 7,076 permits were sold by yesterday, compared with a total of 6,100 last year.

On the first day of legal fireworks sales, 1,446 permits had been sold on Oahu, compared with 297 at the same period last year.

Paul Dela Cruz, who was shopping for other fireworks at Daiei yesterday, said he bought firecrackers on Friday because stores ran out last year.

"People ran out of firecrackers and they were left just holding the permit," Dela Cruz said.

The $25 permits to buy firecrackers are nonrefundable, said Fire Department Capt. Kenison Tejada.

Because stores ran out of firecrackers, the Fire Department allowed last year's permits to be valid for this year. However, the department is still considering whether it will extend this year's permits to next year, he said.

As of yesterday, the Big Island fire department estimates about 2,500 permits were sold, compared with a total of 1,600 last year.

For the first time this year, people on the Big Island were able to buy permits at some stores selling firecrackers.

Battalion Chief Richard Kihara said only a few stores had firecrackers yesterday.

On Kauai, about 370 permits were sold as of yesterday, compared with 404 last year.

On Maui, more than 430 permits were sold, compared with 424 last year.


Know the laws before
setting off fireworks

Fireworks can be sold until 9 p.m. today and can be legally set off only between 9 p.m. today and 1 a.m. tomorrow.

It is unlawful to:

>> Remove pyrotechnic contents from fireworks.
>> Throw ignited fireworks from a moving vehicle.
>> Set off fireworks in the vicinity of health-care facilities and facilities for animals.
>> Set off fireworks by schools.
>> Set off fireworks on public ways, or in parks, cane fields or places of worship.
>> Set off, ignite, discharge or otherwise cause to explode any fireworks within 500 feet of any hotel without a permit.
>> Offer for sale, sell or give any fireworks to minors, and for any minor to possess, purchase or set off fireworks. However, parents or guardians may allow a minor to use fireworks while under immediate supervision and control of an adult.


>> Possession of 25 pounds or more of illegal fireworks is a felony, punishable by a fine of not more than $10,000, imprisonment of not more than five years, or both.
>> Lesser violations are treated as misdemeanors, punishable by a fine of not more than $2,000 for each violation.


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