Fireworks no longer a tolerable isle tradition
Light winds, little rain and lots of the explosives make a bad combination for New Year's Eve.
THE 300 people who showed up for respirator masks at a free clinic
this week are but a small number of Hawaii residents who will suffer tonight when smoke from fireworks pollutes the air, as it does every New Year's Eve.
Scores of others are likely to be injured and property damaged due to the noisy explosives set off by those who cling to a custom no longer suitable in cramped urban environments.
Weather forecasts call for light winds and little rain today, which means haze could linger over the islands, exacerbating problems for those with respiratory ailments. Dry conditions during the past weeks have left brush prone to fires.
Judging from the high number of permits issued on Oahu this week and the strong sales of fireworks, residents can expect there will be little restraint come midnight.
That will force the nearly 79,000 people in Hawaii afflicted by asthma -- 25,000 of them children -- to shut their homes tight or hole up in air-conditioned rooms to avoid illness. They should not have to be endangered or fearful for their health on one of the most festive holidays of the year.
Fireworks also place firefighters and law enforcement officers at risk. Meanwhile, homeowners must stand guard lest a stray rocket or illegal Roman candle starts a blaze, like on the Fourth of July when more than 80 percent of 123 fires on Oahu were ignited by fireworks.
Most vulnerable are children. Of the 115 people injured by fireworks last New Year's Eve, half of them were under 14 years old. Parents who think non-noise-making devices are safer should know that sparklers, which burn as hot as 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, cause the most injuries among youngsters. Adults should weigh the fleeting thrill children might get from flame-shooting contraptions against the permanent damage that can result.
Fire officials, realizing that many will play with fire no matter what, stress that they at least do so with caution. Children should be supervised, and water hoses or buckets in easy reach. Fireworks shouldn't be tampered with or combined with other flammable or explosive substances. The list goes on, but no amount of caution can nullify the inherent danger of fireworks.
Pleas from fire officials and health advocates for a fireworks ban have fallen on deaf ears at the state Legislature year after year. When they bring the matter to the state Capitol again next year, lawmakers should heed their counsel. The tradition, though beloved by some islanders, creates far too many hazards.