As long as you’re over 18 and follow a few common-sense rules — such as don’t set off fireworks in cars — you can legally light consumer fireworks into the Pennsylvania sky to celebrate this year’s Fourth of July.
But Pittsburgh Public Safety and UPMC Mercy Burn Center aren’t thrilled. So much so, that they held a media event Wednesday urging people to “leave it to the professionals.”
To prove their point, they blew up fruit with illegal, homemade explosives confiscated by the Pittsburgh police bomb squad.
They had no idea how it was going to go, Bomb Technician Adam Turk said, because, “There is no quality control in people’s basements.”
The bomb squad regularly confiscates homemade explosives, he said, adding “we get more than I can count.” He stressed that the homemade kind are “basically mini pipe bombs,” while store-bought fireworks are regulated.
Lesson: Don’t buy explosives from someone who made them at home.
First up: Two apples taped together. At first it was nothing but smoke, eliciting an “awe” from the crowd. Then a flash and an explosion.
Lesson: Light-to-explosion time is anyone’s guess.
A few sparks, but mostly waiting.
This melon never exploded and the illegal firework had to be diffused.
Lesson: Don’t mess with duds.
This was the biggest blast, with chunks of fruit flying through the air.
Lesson: “There’s nothing left of that watermelon. It’s mostly water, and so are we,” Turk said.
Watch the watermelon explosion here:
Fireworks of the legal variety
A new Pa. fireworks law, signed in October, says anyone over 18 can purchase “firecrackers, Roman Candles, bottle rockets, and similar fireworks that contain a maximum of 50 milligrams of explosive material.”
And the law outlines a few requirements for lighting them:
- Have permission from the property owner
- Don’t discharge them from or in a car or building
- Be more than 150 feet from an occupied structure
- Don’t be under the influence of alcohol or drugs while lighting fireworks
Legal fireworks are considered “consumer fireworks” and that doesn’t include the other two classes of fireworks:
- Display fireworks, which still require a permit from professionals
- “Federal forbidden explosives” like M80s, silver salutes and cherry bombs, which are just like they sound — illegal.
Lesson: If you buy fireworks, be smart about it.
The change in the law is expected to be a money-maker for the state, with an estimated $2.6 million generated this fiscal year and $9.3 million next fiscal year, TribLive reported. Those funds come from taxes, as well as fees that stores pay for a license to sell fireworks.
If this year is a problem, Wendell Hissrich, director of Pittsburgh Public safety said, he’ll approach state lawmakers about changing the law.
Both he and Jenny Ziembicki, medical director of UPMC Mercy Burn Center, stressed that they are worried about more injuries due to fireworks this year.
The most common injuries are to the face, hands and eyes and can be devastating, Ziembicki said.
In addition to injuries, Hissrich said he’s concerned that fire calls will increase from fireworks that go through roofs and/or start fires from the base of a building. He said there have already been several complaints about fireworks too close to buildings in the city.
Lesson: “Don’t use them, and don’t give them to kids,” he said.