Thursday, November 26, 2015         


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Ban on sparklers will be major bummer for everyone

By Lee Cataluna


Aw, sparklers too? Really? Sparklers were part of the problem?

The city's new ban on fireworks is so comprehensive, it bans just about everything except tiki torches, Bic lighters and mosquito punks.

"Firecrackers, snakes, sparklers, fountains and cylindrical or cone fountains that emit effects up to a height not greater than 12 feet above the ground, illuminating torches, bamboo cannons, whistles, toy smoke devices, wheels and ground spinners that when ignited remain within a circle with a radius of 12 feet ... paperless firecrackers and other fireworks of like construction that are designed to produce the same or similar effect ..." The do-nots of the ordinance go on and on.

Yay for the fireworks ban because we all know it was getting apocalyptic the last couple of New Years. But sparklers, too? Shucks.

Sparklers are just in a whole different class of combustible than 12-foot strings of firecrackers or the cannonlike canisters that shoot a hundred feet into the sky. Sparklers are like Cherry Cokes, while aerials are hard liquor. They are pretend fairy wands for children, the one thing Grandma enjoys when all the rest of the family is blasting fountains. They are whimsical and blessedly quiet birthday candles on pretty restaurant birthday cakes. They are the firework of choice for those who want something tame and mellow.

Today's sparklers fizzle out in less than a minute. The sparklers of yesteryear had staying power. Some were as long as your arm and changed color from silver to green to red before flaming out after 90 seconds or so. You could write your boyfriend's name in the air along with "always and forever, Happy New Year 1983" with those. These days, a sparkler barely lasts long enough to light another sparkler off it.

True, sparklers aren't completely harmless. You can burn a finger, poke an eye, singe a croton hedge. Just about any object in the wrong hands can be dangerous. But it's not like there was a rash of sparkler-related injuries and infernos. Yes, they make some smoke, but not much, and the noise is barely above a whisper.

The problem wasn't little girls playing fairy princess with their sparklers in the driveway while mom and dad supervised. It's those jerks up the street -- up everybody's street -- with the illegally obtained professional-grade aerials raining terror on every terrier in the neighborhood. The problem was the crazy improvised explosives kids light up in fields of dry brush or metal garbage cans. The problem was law enforcement's inherent difficulty catching these guys who light a fuse and then run away, and their confounding inability to catch importers at the point of entry.

But if sparklers have to go in service of a greater good, it's not a travesty. There's always glow sticks. Just ... shucks.

Lee Cataluna can be reached at


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