The tradition of fireworks on the Fourth of July goes back to the first celebration of Independence Day.
Regarding the celebration in Philadelphia on July 4, 1777, The Pennsylvania Evening Post reported “at night there was a grand exhibition of fireworks (which began and concluded with thirteen rockets) on the Commons, and the city was beautifully illuminated.”
Bright, sparkling lights are just as much ingrained in the holiday tradition as red, white and blue.
But this year, restrictions in place because of the coronavirus pandemic have put a damper on many of the local events that concluded with fireworks.
But that doesn’t mean fireworks are forgotten this year.
Some fireworks retailers are reporting 200% increases from the same time last year, Julie L. Heckman, executive director of the American Pyrotechnics Association, told The Associated Press last month.
Which likely means many people are setting up their own fireworks displays.
All retail sales of fireworks were illegal in New York, until a law was passed in 2014 allowing limited sales. Counties could opt in on sales of what the state calls sparkling devices, which are “ground based or handheld devices that produce a shower of colored sparks and or a colored flame, audible crackling or whistling noise and smoke.”
Our four counties did opt in, and in recent years scores of tents popped up across our area, offering fireworks during the two-week window when sales are allowed. These fireworks are ones that meet the definition of “sparkling devices."
But just a short trip over the border into Pennsylvania, the selection is much larger, drawing many people to our neighboring state to buy fireworks for a larger show.
But New Yorkers who buy the fireworks not available in New York and bring those back home are breaking the law. And those buyers should watch out, because New York State Police are cracking down on fireworks smugglers.
If you will have a backyard show this Fourth of July, beyond staying legal, we want you to stay safe.
Follow these tips from the National Safety Council:
• Never allow young children to handle fireworks, and older children should use them only under close adult supervision;
• Never use fireworks while impaired by drugs or alcohol;
• Anyone using fireworks or standing nearby should wear protective eyewear;
• Never hold lighted fireworks in your hands;
• Never light them indoors;
• Only use them away from people, houses and flammable material;
• Never point or throw fireworks at another person;
• Only light one device at a time and maintain a safe distance after lighting;
• Never ignite devices in a container;
• Do not try to re-light or handle malfunctioning fireworks;
• Soak both spent and unused fireworks in water for a few hours before discarding;
• Keep a bucket of water nearby to fully extinguish fireworks that don’t go off or in case of fire.
Also consider your pets when planning a backyard show. Many animals, especially dogs, don’t like the loud noises fireworks produce. If your pets aren’t fans of fireworks, make sure they are securely leashed or inside before starting the show.
We wish every one a safe Independence Day.