Wednesday, February 3, 1999

Fireworks regulation
or total ban?

By Rod Ohira


Professional pyrotechnist Manuel "Manny" Patino's impression of New Year's fireworks play in Hawaii is that it can only get worse.

"I couldn't believe it, it's very much out of control," said Patino, a Nuuanu resident and president of Extravaganza Productions Inc., which donated last week's fireworks show for the USS Missouri's opening.

"If it's allowed to continue, the millennium celebration will be five times greater."

Hazardous conditions created by smoke are the worst he's ever experienced, Patino said.

"I love fireworks," he added, "but every man, woman and child also has the right to get into a vehicle and not have their vision impaired.

"We're starting to cross over constitutional lines that each person should have."

Patino, who also heads Pacific Rim and Middle East operations for Fireworks by Grucci Inc., would prefer to see fireworks regulated rather than banned. "The minute you ban fireworks, the black market goes up 1,000 percent before the ink is dry.

"This is a no-win situation but someone's got to draw a line," he said. "I'm surprised the state and city hasn't hired a professional consultant to help them."

Patino said limiting the amount of fireworks sold to each person would help.

"It shouldn't be any more than $100 and you'd need a certified permit to make the purchase," he said. "Permit information could be stored in a data base."

Patino says the cheap firecrackers being sold in Hawaii are dangerous.

"Paper, composition and how it's wrapped determines quality," he said. "Big retailers could set a price and still bring in better quality fireworks."

Deputy Fire Chief John Clark favors a statewide ban, saying it's the only way to stop illegal shipments of aerial fireworks.

"The illegal stuff isn't coming in from foreign ports," Clark said. "It's coming from the mainland.

"Foreign fireworks are sent to states where it's legal and transshipped to Hawaii. It's not going through Customs inspection. There's no way around it outside of a ban."

Clark also felt a permit system wouldn't work. "The theory is good but the practical reality is not," he said. "The permitting system limiting amounts didn't work because it only set up fronts for illegal sales in back."

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