A new state law passed last year that allows Pennsylvania residents to purchase fireworks that had previously only been available to out-of-state residents has caused concern that the newly legal fireworks will be used in an unsafe manner, especially as Independence Day approaches.
Under the new law, anyone who is at least 18 years old may buy and use “Class C” or “consumer-grade” fireworks. Those include firecrackers, Roman Candles, bottle rockets, and similar fireworks that contain no more than milligrams of explosive material. “Display fireworks,” which include those with more than two grains or 130 milligrams of explosive materials, and professional-grade aerial shells containing more than 60 grams of pyrotechnic compositions, are still only to be used by professionals. They must get a permit from the municipality where the display will take place.
Fireworks may not be discharged within 150 feet of an occupied structure. The law also prohibits the use of fireworks by anyone who is under the influence of alcohol or another drug.
During the public comment period of the West Donegal Township supervisors meeting on Monday, June 11, Anchor Road resident Sara J. Bell said she was concerned about the new law. She said fireworks shot in her neighborhood the previous Saturday caused a great disturbance.
“My sister thought actually a gas line blew up,” Bell said.
She said she believed the fireworks were being discharged within 150 feet of an occupied structure and she did not think they were the type that consumers are allowed to used. She said they were similar to ones used at City Island, the home of the Harrisburg Senators’ ballpark.
“It’s not a Roman candle or a bottle rocket. … I would feel safer if I knew we’re going to enforce the law,” Bell said.
She urged police to enforce the laws about fireworks and asked the township to post a plain-language explanation of the law on its website. Township Manager John O. Yoder III said he could post the explanation of the law and Northwest Regional Police Chief Mark Mayberry promised that violators would be cited by police.
“We’ll respond and at least check out every complaint we get, and I know there will be a lot,” Mayberry said.
State law allows consumer-grad fireworks to be sold at any licensed facility, including at tents and other temporary structures in parking lots. Temporary structures can sell fireworks at two times each year, between June 15 and July 8 as well as between and Dec. 21 and Jan. 2.