When it comes to personal pyrotechnics, Massachusetts stands alone. State law doesn’t just ban bottle rockets, Roman candles and firecrackers, it outlaws all consumer fireworks including sparklers, party poppers, snappers and spinners.
It could be argued the law goes too far, since the idea of children squealing at the sound of a party popper or running through a darkened yard, waving a brilliant sparkler colors many adults’ childhood memories.
A city councilor in Attleboro apparently agrees with that image and hopes to get support for a statewide ballot question to loosen the Bay State’s grip on personal fireworks.
Councilor Diana Holmes said in a letter to the editor of The Sun Chronicle, her local newspaper, that she believes people have a right to have fun with fireworks — without smuggling them over the border. Besides, the state could be bringing in tax revenue from the legal sale of fireworks.
Holmes said the pandemic pointed out how so many forms of entertainment were stifled.
“Since the pandemic, fun has pretty much been canceled,” she told The Sun Chronicle. “This is the perfect time to introduce the use of consumer fireworks!”
State Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey takes a much different tack about fireworks, as you’d expect. Fire officials in general oppose the idea of loosening the law banning fireworks. They are the ones who respond to emergency calls when people of all ages suffer burns, blown off fingers, blindness and sometimes death from careless use of fireworks or simply the unpredictable nature of explosives.
“Illegal fireworks are risky, especially around children who will imitate what they see adults do,” Ostroskey said in a statement.
In his annual pre-July 4th warning about fireworks dangers, Ostroskey noted that since 2011, 32 people were treated in Bay State ERs for severe burns from fireworks adding, “Fifty-four percent of the victims were people under age 25 who will spend the rest of their lives with these scars.”
The injuries included a 4-year-old Boston girl who, on July 9, 2019, grabbed a burning sparkler someone else was holding and suffered burns to her left hand, as well as a 13-year old boy Randolph who suffered burns to 10% of his body from illegal fireworks last July.
Equally concerning are the number of house fires started by fireworks in Massachusetts. Dozens of people were put out of their homes during the pandemic after fireworks caught their homes on fire, Ostroskey said.
From May 27 to Oct. 10, 2020, illegal fireworks damaged a two-family home in New Bedford; caused $145,000 in damage to a Worcester three-decker; sparked a fire on the porch of a two-family in Springfield; burned a rear hallway of a six-unit Boston apartment building; and even started a car fire when someone lit fireworks on top of a Mercedes Benz in Boston.
Since 2011, Ostroskey says there have been 941 major fires or explosions in the state involving illegal fireworks, resulting in 12 civilian injuries, 42 fire service injuries, and an estimated dollar loss of $2.1 million.
The American Pyrotechnics Association — whose website shows a U.S. map with Massachusetts as the only red state, banning all consumer fireworks — notes that professional fireworks displays are an American tradition that brings communities together.
“Fireworks remain one of the few ways American families can escape their fast-paced, technology-laden lives to enjoy a multi-generational family activity full of beautiful colors and bright lights,” the APA says on its website. “Events that include fireworks displays can add millions of dollars to local economies and sales from backyard fireworks raise significant tax revenue.”
We heartily agree and believe the best fireworks shows are those left to the professionals, not Uncle Roger in the backyard.