‘It’s a war zone’: Firefighters, police say Pennsylvania needs to rethink its fireworks law

LANCASTER, Pa. -- Some firefighters and police chiefs across the Commonwealth think Pennsylvania's fireworks law is irresponsible.

They're working together to get lawmakers to repeal the law which made buying consumer grade fireworks, like bottle rockets, legal.

All summer long, the Lancaster Bureau Police and Lancaster Bureau of Fire received phone calls, emails, and complaints on social media about the fireworks.

To add to their frustration, officials say it's extremely difficult for them to enforce.

Pennsylvania made it legal for people to buy consumer grade fireworks in 2017 - products like bottle rockets and roman candles with up to 50 milligrams of explosive material inside.

Since then, it's been like a combat area in Lancaster.

"We have a lot of veterans who work within the fire bureau and our bureau of police, and they say it's no different than being in Iraq and Afghanistan. It's a war zone," said Chief Scott Little, Lancaster Bureau of Fire.

This July, it was no different.

"The phones here at City Hall were ringing nonstop," he added. "We had hour long fire shows throughout the city, just nonstop fireworks throughout the evening. We luckily did not have any large fires this year. Everything was contained to multiple dumpster fires, but it is a problem."

When the law passed, Lancaster City Council passed an ordinance making it illegal to set fireworks off on any public property in the city, like on sidewalks or at parks.

"We still are faced with the issues, like everyone else is, even though we're trying to be proactive," said Little.

Violators caught face $100 fines. The only problem? Police need to be the ones catching them in the act.

"Neighbors call while it's happening," explained Little. "Police show up 10,15 minutes later, and nothing is happening."

Little is optimistic something could happen soon though.

State Representative Frank Farry has drafted legislation. If passed, it would limit when people could actually set the fireworks off.

The bill would also give more explicit authority to municipalities to restrict the use of fireworks and increase penalties for those repeat offenders.

Officials have concern it could only get worse as companies create fireworks for every occasion; they say they are fortunate this summer they did not get any official report of injuries in Lancaster.

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