Loud fireworks explosions have been the soundtrack of Philadelphia’s streets since late spring — and many residents are furious.

Jean Gajary, a Mount Airy resident, said her dog, a rat terrier named Tres, has been terrorized by the incessant booms. After she posted about Tres on her neighborhood Nextdoor website, she heard from hundreds of people who felt the same way.

“We have veterans in our city with PTSD that’s getting triggered night after night from the fireworks. People are frightened — they don’t know if they’re hearing fireworks or gunshots,” she said. Young kids have also been scared, and medical workers have told her they haven’t been able to sleep.

“Sometimes it feels like we live in a war zone,” she said during a virtual news conference Thursday.

Jean Gajary, a founding member of the Stop Philly Fireworks group, speaks during a Zoom news conference on Thursday.
JOSE F. MORENO / Staff Photographer
Jean Gajary, a founding member of the Stop Philly Fireworks group, speaks during a Zoom news conference on Thursday.

Between May 29 and June 29, Philadelphia police fielded 8,526 complaints about fireworks. Although the number of complaints has dwindled over the last month, residents express concern there could be a surge over the Labor Day weekend.

Gajary and another Mount Airy resident, Darlene Temple, founded the Stop Philly Fireworks group, which is asking the state legislature to give some relief. The complaints have prompted officials to act.

State Rep. Peter Schweyer (D., Lehigh) and State Sen. Judith Schwank (D., Berks) have introduced bills seeking to repeal the 2017 law that allowed the sale and use of more powerful fireworks in Pennsylvania.

Philadelphia City Councilmember Cindy Bass has persuaded retailers, including Acme, Fresh Grocer, and ShopRite supermarkets in Philadelphia and a Target in Cheltenham, to stop selling fireworks. She also introduced a Council resolution urging the legislature to again outlaw consumer fireworks such as Roman candles, bottle rockets and mortars.

Often, even though fireworks may have been purchased legally, they are being set off illegally in the city, State Sen. Christine Tartaglione and State Rep. Joe Hohenstein, both Philadelphia Democrats, said. The Philadelphia Fire Code was updated last year to reflect the new state law. Both prohibit the use of consumer fireworks within 150 feet of occupied structures.

Police “have the unenviable task” of “chasing after a ghost” to find people who have set off fireworks illegally because they are usually gone when officers arrive, Hohenstein said.

State Rep. Joe Hohenstein (D., Phila.) listens during a Zoom press conference Thursday about consumer fireworks.
JOSE F. MORENO / Staff Photographer
State Rep. Joe Hohenstein (D., Phila.) listens during a Zoom press conference Thursday about consumer fireworks.

Police have been inundated — dealing not only with calls about fireworks, but also daily gun violence in the city, the coronavirus pandemic, and the opioid epidemic, said Philadelphia Police Capt. Pedro Rosario of the 24th District, which includes parts of Port Richmond, Kensington, and Juniata Park.

“It’s incredibly difficult to cope with the scale of how to enforce this,” Rosario said. “Officers are overwhelmed already.”

In his district there have been more than 2,400 calls about nuisance fireworks since May 29. “Traditionally, around this time, the [police] bomb squad would have confiscated roughly 100 pounds of [unexploded fireworks] material,” he said. “For 2020, we’re over 1.5 tons of material.”