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Monday, December 25, 2000

sales expected
to explode

A rush on permits is likely,
but people may also resort
to black-market fireworks

By Gordon Y.K. Pang

Only about 500 firecracker permits had been issued through Friday, leaving at least one city fire official worried that thousands could be converging on satellite city halls this week, especially with firecrackers going on sale tomorrow.

"It's not as brisk as we would like it to be," said fire Capt. Richard Soo. "We expect it to pick up on Dec. 28, 29 and 30."

Soo said he's most worried about Saturday, when only the three satellites -- at Ala Moana, Pearlridge and Windward Mall -- will be open.

Throughout the week, he said, uniformed firefighters will be at each of the nine satellite city halls in an effort to speed up the process. They will answer questions before customers proceed to the windows to purchase permits.

The $25 permits, which went on sale Dec. 15, allow anyone 18 or older to buy as many as 5,000 firecrackers.

Each person may purchase as many permits as desired.

The permits are for firecrackers only, not for other types of fireworks, such as fountains.

Police and fire personnel will be monitoring stores selling firecrackers to ensure the new law is being followed.

Undercover police from the Crime Reduction Unit will do the monitoring, with fire officials writing the actual citations, Soo said.

Police will also be targeting black-market sales and homemade explosive devices, as they have in previous years, said Michelle Yu, police spokeswoman.

Other law enforcement agencies will also participate, Yu said.

Jeff Graper, a merchandising division manager at Daiei's Kaheka store, said the store is buying fewer firecrackers this year because the new law is "really restrictive."

The huge 50,000- and 100,000-strings with multiple bombs, favored by many local families for that stroke-of-midnight blast, are no longer allowed, he said.

Graper said, however, that he doesn't believe that means there will be fewer firecrackers this year. He predicts many people will just try to buy them on the black market.

"Sales are going to be down, at least our sales are going to be down," he said.

"But there's going to be the same amount of fireworks in the air. I suspect people are just going to change where they're buying."

He also predicted there would be more aerials than in previous years because of the new law.

Legislators enacted the law this year amid cries for a fireworks ban by opponents who question their safety.

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