For public safety, take fireworks out of isle celebrations
New Year's Eve fireworks caused several brush fires, but no citations were issued for illegal aerials.
OAHU survived its sixth consecutive New Year's celebration without fireworks-related deaths or major injuries
, but the danger remains. The island will not be safe until fireworks are removed from private festivities.
Again, rains prior to the celebration helped contain the damage. Fireworks-caused fires totaled 64 from Saturday through Monday, down slightly from 83 during the same three-day period a year ago.
More disturbing is the number of reported arrests of those shooting off aerial fireworks, which is illegal except in organized festivities receiving permission from the Honolulu Fire Department: zero. This lack of enforcement by the police is unacceptable.
"What we saw is the fireworks that travel are the ones that give us the most problems -- jumping jacks or aerials," said Fire Captain Kenison Tejada. "There's a lot of aerials all over the place and those are really dangerous."
Such pyrotechnics probably were responsible for a fire that consumed 10 acres of brush in the Waianae area Wednesday afternoon.
Air pollution caused by fireworks again caused a nuisance to many residents and a hazard to those with lung or bronchial problems, although New Year's Eve smoke also was slightly less than last year in most areas. Honolulu is known for its relatively clean air, but the American Lung Association says it merits a grade of D during the 24-hour New Year's pollution.
The Fire Department has long called for a ban on privately lit fireworks, leaving fireworks shows to the professionals. Tejada says the department will continue urging legislators to impose such a statewide ban, understanding it to be "a slow process."
The danger is real: An 80-year-old woman and two family dogs were killed inside their Palolo house by a fire believed to have been caused by a nearby celebration ringing in the 2001 new year. While the Legislature continues to ponder a proposed fireworks ban, law enforcement agencies should step up enforcement of the current ban on aerial fireworks to prevent another New Year's or Fourth of July tragedy.
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