Some fireworks legalized for sale in New Jersey
By ERIN ROLL
This summer, area celebrants can legally buy fireworks in New Jersey, but don’t get too excited. Rather than giving off the big bang you would expect, you get more of a sparkle, fizzle and a pop.
As one recent headline read, “Fireworks so boring, your neighbors won’t even call the cops.”
As of last June, stores across New Jersey starting carrying ground-based firecrackers -- sparklers, poppers and snappers -- after former Gov. Chris Christie signed a bill making these types of devices legal for purchase to consumers over the age 16. Last week just in time for the firecracker’s big event - July 4- displays in Kings and Acme in Montclair were loaded with the product. The packaging, which screams go big and bold or go home and with names such as Storm Shock and Lightening Bast, can be a bit misleading.
But local officials, including Montclair’s fire department and ambulance unit, are warning these fireworks could carry a big bite. They are urging residents to be careful, as these devices get very hot and still create flames. They do carry a risk of risk of injuries and fires, said fire inspector Imelda Muench.
“Overall, we’re not happy [with these being sold]. In fire prevention, we’re not pleased. In fire service, we’re not pleased,” said Muench.
Looking for a bigger bang
Fire department officials are concerned that with the legalization of the smaller devices, there could be a perception that any kind of firework is now legal.
There was an incident last year, Muench said, in which a group of teens were spotted setting off fireworks from the roof of the house. It was uncertain exactly what kind of fireworks they were, only that they would have been considered Class B explosives.
A Class B explosive, according to OSHA, is defined as possessing a flammable hazard, such as propellant explosive, photographic flash powders, and some special fireworks. These devices are not hard to get. New Jersey borders Pennsylvania, where many kinds of fireworks are legal, while Montclairites are close to Chinatown, which also sells fireworks. Vacationers in North Carolina can also bring back fireworks purchased there, Muench said.
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, there were four reported deaths and 1,110 injuries nationwide resulting from fireworks in 2016, and 68 percent of those injuries happened during the time period surrounding July 4.
Frank Carlo, the deputy chief of the Montclair Ambulance Unit, said Monday that he wasn’t immediately aware of any recent incidents in which the unit responded to an injury related to fireworks in Montclair.
“Montclair Ambulance Unit echoes the position of the [National Fire Protection Association] that, legal or not, fireworks are too risky for amateurs. Permanent scarring, loss of vision, dismemberment – these are too often the harsh realities of amateur fireworks use. To keep the public safe from fireworks-related injuries and deaths, Montclair Ambulance Unit urges everyone to treat fireworks, whether legal or illegal for consumers, as suitable only for use by trained professionals,” Carlo said.
Fireworks users are urged to take cautionary measures, including waiting 20 minutes after a firework has burnt out before handling it and submerging burnt-out fireworks in water.
Flying off the shelves?
As firecrackers are not just for July 4, fireworks represent a potential money maker for stores.
Two Montclair-area grocery stores, Acme and Kings, have been offering packages of novelty fireworks and sparklers for sale this season. So far, the stores’ managers say, the sales had been relatively brisk in the days leading up to July 4.
Acme began carrying fireworks about a month and a half ago, said store manager Pete Hoadley. When fireworks are checked out at the cash register, a prompt will come up asking the customer to prove that they are at least 16 years of age.
“They’re buying a little bit of everything,” Hoadley said about customers favorites.
At Kings, fireworks have also been selling well, said manager Gerry Straub. Asked what most customers are buying, Straub said, “The sparklers, because they’re for the kids.”
The CVS on Bloomfield Avenue had also been carrying fireworks for sale.
When the fireworks were first offered, stores often placed fireworks on display near the front entrance, sometimes in the sunlight, a move Muench said was risky because of the flash powder in the fireworks. After warnings, many stores moved fireworks packages to the back of the store, and placing a fire extinguisher nearby.
Up until last year, New Jersey was one of a handful of states that prohibited the sale of fireworks to the general public.
Fireworks such as Roman candles, sky rockets, bottle rockets and firecrackers are still illegal in New Jersey for consumer purchase. The law only permits non-aerial fireworks such as sparklers, snakes, glow worms, smoke devices and trick noisemakers, such as party poppers, snappers and drop pops, and only people over the age of 16 are permitted to buy fireworks and use them.
Only professional companies are allowed to set off aerial fireworks, with the necessary permits.
Fireworks were originally banned for private purchase in New Jersey in 1936, after a large number of fireworks-related injuries during the July 4 holiday. The ban made New Jersey one of a handful of states that prohibited the sale of consumer fireworks.
Under the revised state law, anyone found to be in possession of illegal fireworks may be charged with a disorderly persons offense and fined $500.