Lots of people enjoyed fireworks last night in Kalihi. Among them were Mark DelaCruz and his son, Mark Jr., who lit sparklers along Ahuula Street.

Stalled storm gives
fireworks free rein

A dozen blazes are reportedly
related to pyrotechnic play

Youngsters threw firecrackers and novelty fireworks into the streets of Kalihi last night as cautious drivers dodged the roadside pyrotechnics.

"It's only once a year," said Francis Roy, a 53-year-old merchant marine, who enjoyed watching his son Ridge, 13, light a fountain in the street.

"This is my first time in 10 years I stay home with my family. Mostly I stay at sea," said Roy, who leaves today for the Middle East.

The action in Kalihi was repeated throughout Oahu last night as the forecasted heavy winter rains and winds failed to arrive in time to snuff out the festivities. Instead, the windless night air was thick with smoke.

Fireworks permit sales on Oahu exploded this year with a record 11,762 sold on Oahu, surpassing last year's record of 8,792, a 33 percent increase. The permit system was instituted in 2000. A $25 permit allows the permit holder to purchase 5,000 firecrackers.

Also this year, the number of cases of firecrackers brought in to Hawaii more than doubled, with 6,761 cases versus 2,947 cases last year.

Novelties, however, were down at 68,522 cases from 71,321 cases imported last year.

Neil Dacanay, left, and Kryz Bedan lit sparklers yesterday along Kahana Street in Kalihi.

For the Reano family of Kalihi, fireworks meant morning glories and sparklers for the little ones as the adults feasted on barbecued ribs and played cards.

But for the boys on Kahanu Street, New Year's Eve was all about fireworks.

"It's fun to pop fireworks," said Wilmer Falcon, 11, surrounded by his neighborhood buddies. He spent about $25 on novelty items. His parents bought the permits for the firecrackers.

Closer to midnight, the kids planned on setting off some novelty fireworks modified with electrical tape to create loud popping.

By about 10 p.m., the Hono-lulu Fire Department reported about 12 fireworks-related fires, including one at an unoccupied Kahuku home.

Still, the department would eventually like to see a ban on all fireworks, including novelty items.

"Because in our minds, they all present some hazard," Capt. Emmit Kane said. "Young children, in our opinion, shouldn't utilize fireworks at all. Older children should have adult supervision."

The exceptions to the proposed ban would be cultural, religious or ceremonial uses, he said.

Kane said it is tough to enforce the current fireworks laws, and the fire department will lobby the Legislature to clarify the laws "so enforcement has teeth."

The permits are good for one year from the date of purchase, but the fire department wants to modify that to specify the event and site.

The law now allows a person to purchase an unlimited number of permits, but does not designate the user, the time or place the fireworks may be used.

Kane pointed to the ban against aerials as a success.

"Over the last few years we've seen less and less," he said. He noted aerial usage has gone down considerably since the ban.

"Aerials were a huge problem because you didn't know where they would end up," he said. "The law was successful in making aerials illegal."

Ridge Roy was among those in Kalihi enjoying yesterday's fireworks as he watched a fountain burning in the street.


Storm expected to hit
Oahu today

Oahu was expected to get a wet start to 2005, but sunny skies could return by tomorrow.

A storm system packing heavy rains was expected to hit the island today and likely stick around through the evening.

Wet weather had been in the forecast for New Year's Eve, but bands of rain associated with the system stalled yesterday after slowing earlier in the week, said National Weather Service forecaster Norman Hui.

Intermittent showers were reported over Oahu last night, but the heaviest rain was concentrated over Kauai. The island has been socked in with rain since Thursday, forecasters said.

Weather service forecaster Robert Ballard said if Kauai gets much more rain today -- as expected -- "it could cause some problems."

In the 24-hour period ending at 5:45 p.m. yesterday, several Kauai rain gauges had measured over 3 inches of rain. About 5 inches of rain had fallen at Princeville Airport over the same period, and 4 1/2 inches had fallen near the Hanalei River.

A flash flood watch for Niihau, Kauai and Oahu was expected to remain in effect through today.

"The threat is there for flooding," Ballard said. "We don't want to let our guard down. If the thunderstorms repeat over one place, it could mean some serious problems."

The rain, though, wasn't expected to last into the week. Ballard said Oahu could see sunshine by tomorrow. "We'd look for gradually improving conditions," he said.

High winds were originally forecast to accompany the rain and thunderstorms.

But the center of the storm weakened Thursday night, before gusts of up to 60 mph could reach the islands, Ballard said. As late as Thursday afternoon, a buoy 180 miles off Kauai recorded a gust of 54 mph, he said.

"We did see strong winds come pretty close to the islands," Ballard said. "Over time, it backed off."

Maui could see the remnants of the slow-moving storm system tomorrow, with intermittent showers and a chance of thunderstorms.

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