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Relief mixed with worry greets signing of partial fireworks ban

By Gordon Y.K. Pang


The chiefs of Oahu's emergency agencies expressed both relief and apprehension as acting Mayor Kirk Caldwell signed into law a bill that limits consumer fireworks on the island.

They applauded the signing yesterday, pointing out that they had fought for stricter fireworks laws for years.

"We've been talking about this, we've been working on this for such a long time," said Fire Chief Kenneth Silva. "I'm very encouraged by the fact that we have a resource at our disposal, that we have a mechanism that I think will make a huge difference in keeping our community safe."

Police Chief Louis Kealoha said while he and others had hoped for a total ban, "this is a new beginning."

But because the bill does not take effect until Jan. 2, 2011, they also are worried that the upcoming New Year's holiday will be a hazardous one as people use up whatever stock of fireworks they have left.

"We're really concerned, not only for (the Fire Department), but for HPD," said Silva, who added that his department and the Police Department will roll out an education program just prior to Jan. 1.


» Information about the new fireworks law

"I think people are going to want to get rid of whatever inventory that they have," Silva said, "and take one last chance at using the items they traditionally light -- the fountains, the sparklers, the spinning items."

Caldwell said the growth of the island required something be done from a health and safety standpoint. "As we've grown more and more urban, as we've filled out our former cane lands and pineapple lands with subdivisions and houses, we've seen the evolution of fireworks," he said.

The new law bans all consumer fireworks, from sparklers to fountains, except for standard firecrackers. Setting off firecrackers would be allowed during limited hours for New Year's Eve, Chinese New Year, the Fourth of July and cultural celebrations from birthdays to cemetery visits.

Adults will be able to buy an unlimited number of $25 permits. Each permit allows the holder to purchase up to 5,000 firecrackers, something they can do now.

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