Fireworks complaints skyrocket in U.S. cities as officials pledge to take action

Now officials have had enough.

Why fireworks are going off so often, no one knows. And city officials say they still don’t know where the greats come from.

Conspiracies abound over who is responsible, but it is clear that relentless fireworks are an inconvenient and dangerous phenomenon in an already surreal American moment.

Fireworks problems on the northeast and west coast

There seems to be no geographic pattern behind which cities are firing more.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh told reporters that calls to police about illegal fireworks increased by 2,300% in May compared to the same period in 2019. He said some of the calls were originally from shots that turned out to be Fireworks.

“This is a serious problem,” he said. “People are scared. People are losing sleep. Babies and children are waking up. Pets are terrified. Our veterans and others with PTSD are experiencing real harm, and it is a real fire hazard in our city.” .

People watch fireworks light up the Brooklyn Bridge during Macy's annual East River Fireworks Show from Manhattan on July 4, 2019.
California’s Alameda County, where San Francisco and Oakland are located, has also received complaints about “above-normal use” of illegal fireworks, according to the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department.

Southern California also stays up all night.

The city of Pasadena said fireworks complaints increased 400%, and Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies recently seized a truckload of illegal fireworks valued at $ 10,000, according to CNN affiliate KCBS.

The fireworks problem in New York is one of the worst, with residents in the five boroughs losing sleep for more than a week.

Annoying fireworks are not a completely new topic for the city, Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a press conference Tuesday, but there is “more [fireworks] than we have seen “in years past, and they are being lit earlier than usual.

“This is a real problem,” said de Blasio. “It is not just a quality of life and noise issue, and it certainly is that. But it can also be dangerous.”

In one example, video shared by the New York Police Benevolent Sergeants Association this week showed a man lighting a firework and throwing it at a homeless man in Brooklyn. The department has asked for the public’s help in identifying the author.
New York Police Chief of Detectives Rodney Harrison said the fireworks exploded near the man and burned his back. CNN has contacted the department for more information on the man’s condition.
And last weekend, firefighters said a Yonkers apartment fire that left six families homeless could also have been caused by fireworks, the Lower Hudson Valley Journal News reported.

De Blasio said New York City police, along with the New York City Sheriff’s Office and fire officials, will create an illegal fireworks task force to combat illegal fireworks sales in the city and surrounding states. Participating officers will carry out “covert operations” to locate the supply and cut it, the mayor said.

New York fireworks problem

In the past two months, New York 411 has received at least 4,862 fireworks complaints. Almost half of them were concentrated in Brooklyn, which received 2,233 complaints, according to the office of Brooklyn County President Eric Adams.

The light show is more than a nuisance in keeping New Yorkers awake all night: explosives are also dangerous.

According to the Adams office, a Bronx teenager was hit in the chest with fireworks and hospitalized in a stable state, and a 33-year-old Brooklyn man was hospitalized in critical condition when a firework he launched ricocheted off a window and hit him. . .

Adams said he doesn’t know how New Yorkers are accessing these fireworks: Fireworks of all kinds are banned in the city, and the state only allows flares. The fireworks he has seen are more like display fireworks that are only available to licensed professionals, he said, similar to those used at Macy’s July 4 fireworks show.

“Walking around and looking at some of these fireworks, they are extremely sophisticated, beyond the normal range of what we used to do when we were kids,” Adams said. “This is definitely not just a firecracker.”

People watch fireworks light up the Brooklyn Bridge during Macy's annual East River Fireworks Show from Manhattan on July 4, 2019.

Most of the Brooklynites he meets tell him they lit fireworks to let off steam after being cooped up for most of spring: New York was for months considered the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Some said they were at their house for a few months, and this is just their way of having fun,” he said. “Often, people don’t realize the dangers associated with it.”

And, of course, there are conspiracies hinting at dire motives: unproven allegations in the fog of a night M-80.

This year I could see more ‘fireworks in the backyard’ than ever

Leaders in the fireworks industry expect the lead-up to July 4 to end the sales pause throughout the winter and early spring. But even they have never seen sales increase as early as they did this year.

And those are just the legal ones.

Backyard fireworks use is expected to hit a record high this July 4, according to the American Pyrotechnics Association, a trade group for consumer and commercial fireworks retailers.

Bill Weimer is vice president and general counsel for Phantom Fireworks, which is considered the leading fireworks retailer in the United States. In his nearly 30 years in the pyrotechnics business, this is the first season he “hit” [him] above.”

Fireworks are displayed at the Rotary Club of San Bruno fireworks stand on June 30, 2017 in San Bruno, California.

“Without reviewing specific numbers, the demand and business we’ve seen so far has been the strongest early fireworks season I’ve seen in my years of involvement in the fireworks business,” he said.

Weimer said more people are buying Phantom fireworks, and they’re buying them sooner than ever. Weeks before the usual busy season from mid-June through the Fourth, Phantom locations have seen customers become repeat customers.

About 40% of them are first-time buyers, he said. And because cities are canceling fireworks shows for the Fourth, Weimer suspects that residents are taking it to light up the skies themselves.

“It is a combination of people who go out, are anxious and have this energy accumulated, and then, around the corner, there is a quintessential fireworks holiday,” he said. “Put the two together, consider the fact that there won’t be a lot of fireworks, and suddenly, you have a formula that means people are buying more and more fireworks, and they buy them sooner.”

Mayor de Blasio, meanwhile, hopes to bring the fireworks to the people. He announced that the city will host a 5-minute roving fireworks show in each of the five boroughs starting next week, culminating in the televised fireworks show on July 4 at Macy’s next month.