Experts urge leaving fireworks to professionals, sparklers are illegal in Albany County

The Enterprise — Michael Koff

Serious burn: This mannequin shows the burn marks left by a sparkling device after Tuesday’s demonstration. According to the Consumer Product Safety commission, top injuries from sparklers, 30 percent, are to hands while 22 percent are to ears or face, and 15 percent are to eyes.

ALBANY COUNTY —  “Leave the fireworks to the professionals,” said New York State Homeland Security and Emergency Services Commissioner Jackie Bray on Tuesday before ill effects of mishandled fireworks were demonstrated at a press event held at Guilderland’s Northeastern Industrial Park.

While sparkling devices are allowed in most of New York State, Albany County is one of a dozen prohibiting their sale or use.

Nevertheless, the event, held in Albany County, just before the Fourth of July holiday, showed how a mannequin’s face could be burned by a sparkler, how a slow-to-react firework could injure someone crouching over it, and how pets could be harmed with loud noise or eating fireworks.

Information from the Consumer Product Safety Commission was shared, showing that 15,600 people were treated in hospital emergencies in 2020 for injuries associated with fireworks while two-thirds of those injuries were from the Fourth of July holiday.

Thirty-five percent of those injured were between the ages of 25 and 44 while 25 percent were between 15 and 24.

At the same time, the top injuries were to hands, at 30 percent, followed by the face and ears at 22 percent, and eye injuries at 15 percent.


The law

The state law limits the type, size, and construction of sparkling devices and requires that these devices must be hand held or mounted on a base or spike and be limited in sizes that range from 1 to 500 grams of pyrotechnic composition.

Statewide, fireworks including firecrackers, bottle rockets, Roman candles, spinners, and aerial devices are illegal.

After allowing sparklers in 2016, the Albany County Legislature reversed itself in September 2020. The use and sale of sparkling devices defined as ground-based fireworks such as the cylindrical or cone fountains and wooden sparkler/dipped sticks are prohibited.

Any person who uses a sparkling device can be issued a fine up to $500 and any individual who sells or furnishes a sparkling device to another person can be charged with a misdemeanor, punishable with a fine of $1,000 and 15 days in jail, the county website says.

“When we adopted the local law in 2016 we were under the impression that sparkling devices would be the small hand-held sparklers, but what we got was much worse. There are fireworks exploding in the street, creating sounds that remind me of the mortar rounds that kept me awake while I served in Iraq. It’s unacceptable,” Chairman Andrew Joyce said in a statement on the county website. “I admit that I made a mistake voting for legal sparklers in 2016 and opting out of the legislation is a good first start in keeping our communities quiet and safe.”

Sale and use of sparkling devices is legal in counties and cities that have not enacted a local law forbidding them, according to the webpage maintained by New York’s Homeland Security and Emergency Services.

Counties where sparklers are illegal, in addition to Albany County, include the Bronx, Columbia, Kings, Nassau, New York City, Queens, Richmond, Orange (Prohibited in the cities of Middletown and Newburgh only), Schenectady, Suffolk, and Westchester.



The Red Cross gives this advice for setting fireworks off at home:

— Never give fireworks to small children, and never throw or point a firework toward people, animals, vehicles, structures or flammable materials. Always follow the instructions on the packaging;

— Keep a supply of water close by as a precaution;

— Make sure the person lighting fireworks always wears eye protection;

— Light only one firework at a time and never attempt to relight “a dud”; and  

— Store fireworks in a cool, dry place away from children and pets.

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