My office has received dozens of complaints about nighttime fireworks that are adding even more stress to our already overwrought neighbors. For many people, fireworks are a fun and exciting way to celebrate Independence Day. But in the words of one my constituents: “The near-constant barrage of M-80s and professional-grade fireworks from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. is exacting a toll on this community. Pets are terrified. Essential employees can’t sleep. People with PTSD are having flashbacks impacting their mental health. We cannot go on like this.”
Fireworks are available for legal purchase by Philadelphia residents, but there are regulations that limit where they can be used. State police guidelines say:
You must be more than 150 feet away from any “occupied structure” — defined as “any structure, vehicle or place adapted for overnight accommodation” or business — whether or not any people are present there.
You cannot set them off on public or private property without the express permission of the owner.
You cannot set them off from, within, or toward a building or vehicle.
You cannot set them off if you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
And, keep in mind, local municipalities may have regulations that differ from state or federal guidelines.
These rules mean that almost every boom we are hearing is illegal. Those who are caught violating existing use laws face citations, but catching people using fireworks illegally can prove to be a taxing and challenging nightly occurrence for law enforcement. Additionally, first responders and medical professionals are working with scant resources due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Emergency calls about property damage and injuries from fireworks are causing additional stress for our community’s most vital frontline employees.
Fireworks are expected to continue throughout the summer, so I am working with my colleagues in Harrisburg to address this issue and find a fair solution. I have cosponsored State Rep. Frank Farry’s HB 1687, which would amend the state’s Fireworks Law to give municipalities like Philadelphia tighter control over pyrotechnics. I am also introducing legislation that would prohibit the use of fireworks between the hours of 10 p.m. and 8 a.m. every day, except designated holidays. The bill would also create penalties for multiple violations of the law, with fines ranging from $100 to $200. Together, I am hopeful that my colleagues in the House will find a balanced answer that emphasizes safety.
It is important to keep peace and safety at the forefront of all the holiday celebrations this summer. Please try to remember that the whole community is affected by noisy, dangerous fireworks. We have had a very difficult 2020; please be a good neighbor, and leave the fireworks to the professionals.
Joe Hohenstein is a state representative in Pennsylvania’s 177th Legislative District in Philadelphia, covering Bridesburg, Mayfair, Port Richmond, Northwood, Frankford, Kensington, Wissinoming, and Harrowgate.