State: Leave fireworks to the professionals

  • Hundreds of people gather at Beacon Field for the annual Independence Day fireworks display held last year in Greenfield. The city’s Recreation Department canceled this year’s event due to concerns about the pandemic. State and local law enforcement agencies note fireworks are illegal in Massachusetts. STAFF FILE PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Staff Writer
Published: 6/29/2020 4:28:41 PM

Fireworks may be synonymous with the Fourth of July, but in Massachusetts they are also illegal.

Area police chiefs are bracing for a slew of calls related to fireworks, sparklers, firecrackers and bottle rockets, and officers will be ready to summons to court anyone who violates state law.

Greenfield Police Chief Robert Haigh Jr. said his department has typically been fortunate in terms of the public being cooperative and lawful, and his officers use common sense and discretion when enforcing the rules. He said there is rarely malicious intent when people use fireworks and police have no interest in reprimanding a 7-year-old for joyfully waving around a sparkler.

“The last thing we want to do is arrest or summons people with holiday events,” Haigh said. “There’s always room for education (of the public).”

Any increase in fireworks usage this year, Haigh said, may be the result of cabin fever caused by the social restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“People are home. People are bored,” he said.

Haigh also said it likely won’t help matters that Greenfield’s annual Independence Day fireworks celebration has been canceled by the Greenfield Recreation Department as a precautionary measure against the novel coronavirus.

James Sullivan, the police chief in Orange for nearly a year, said fireworks have in the past few years become more of a profound issue not only in Orange but across the state. Online reports detail complaints and the seizure of fireworks in Springfield, Holyoke, Chicopee and Boston.

Sullivan said a likely culprit is the abundance of fireworks stores just over the state line in New Hampshire, where fireworks are legal. He said possessing or using fireworks in Massachusetts can result in a $100 fine, not to mention any additional legal fees. Other charges that can come into play include disturbing the peace.

“Really, it’s a quality-of-life issue,” Sullivan said. “Not everybody wants to listen to that stuff at 11 o’clock at night.”

The chief said sparklers, though a fire hazard, are not a top concern. The biggest problem, he said, are loud, heavy-duty fireworks. He theorizes that fireworks have recently become more of an issue in Massachusetts due to their increased simplicity and affordability.

Sullivan said elaborate and disruptive fireworks often disturb domestic animals and military veterans whose post-traumatic stress disorder can be triggered by the explosive sounds and bright lights.

Information from the state Department of Fire Services on the dangers of fireworks can be found at bit.ly/3gaQJkk. Electronic signs along Interstate 91 also issue warnings about fireworks being illegal.

According to the International Association of Fire Fighters, more than 10,000 people are treated for fireworks-related injuries every year, with most of those injuries occurring around the Fourth of July holiday — and more than a third of those injuries involve children under 15 years old.

Last year, fireworks reportedly started an estimated 19,500 fires, including 1,900 structure fires and 500 vehicle fires. The association reports sparklers, which in 2017 sent nearly 1,200 children to the emergency room, can burn at more than 1,000 degrees.

Reach DomenicPoli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.


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