Restrict fireworks to the professionals


POSTED: Friday, January 16, 2009

Heavy rains leading up to New Year's Eve again spared Hawaii from serious injuries or deaths from fireworks, but the threat persists. Honolulu's police and fire chiefs are renewing their call to limit fireworks and pyrotechnics to public displays. Such a statewide ban should go into effect before the Fourth of July, as summer weather will have encouraged vegetative growth, the perfect fuel for fireworks-ignited brush fires.

Police arrested two men prior to the Jan. 1 celebrations for allegedly selling aerial fireworks in Kalihi and cited seven individuals for fireworks violations. As the dusk of Dec. 31 arrived, large numbers of residents ignored the state ban on shooting off pyrotechnics except in organized festivities, and police have said they are unable to control the dangerous anarchy.

A decade ago, then-Gov. John Waihee described the New Year's festivities as “;utter madness”; and called for a statewide ban, but legislators failed to respond. Two years later, an 80-year-old Palolo woman died in one of three house fires ignited by fireworks.

In recent years, laws aimed a controlling the activity have actually made engaging in fireworks more convenient, allowing private retailers rather than counties to issue permits. While New Year's Eve and Independence Day are traditionally times to celebrate, the displays should be conducted by professionals.

In a news conference on Tuesday, Police Chief Boisse Correa said complaints about fireworks' effects on animals and the mentally ill are on the increase in residential neighborhoods. Health officials have pointed out that air pollution caused by fireworks also pose a serious health threat.