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Fourth of July fireworks shows to be sparse in Hawaii

CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / 2018
                                Spectators watch the fireworks burst over Magic Island on the Fourth of July in 2018.
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CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / 2018

Spectators watch the fireworks burst over Magic Island on the Fourth of July in 2018.

Publicly accessible fireworks shows in Hawaii will be mostly unavailable during the Fourth of July weekend, days before COVID-19 restrictions are set to relax.

In 2020 most fireworks displays were canceled during the holiday weekend because of the coronavirus outbreak, and it appears that will be the case this year as well, despite the state being scheduled to relax travel and gathering restrictions Thursday.

Acting Battalion Chief Ari Agpaoa of the Honolulu Fire Department’s Fire Prevention Bureau said there are no public fireworks displays planned on Oahu this year, except for three on military bases — at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Marine Corps Base Hawaii and Schofield Barracks — meaning the general public won’t have direct access to any regular shows on the island, including popular ones held by Ala Moana Center and in Kailua.

Although access to the military fireworks shows will be restricted, the displays “will probably be visible,” Agpaoa said.

Kauai Police Department spokeswoman Coco Zickos said she’s not aware of any shows being held on Kauai this year, while the Maui County Fire Department announced June 16 that no public fireworks displays will be held.

There will be fireworks shows in Hilo and Kona during “abbreviated” celebrations this weekend, according to the Hawaii Tribune-Herald.

As with most Fourth of July holidays, first responders are warning the public about setting off their own pyrotechnics.

Fire officials have a long list of safety guidelines, including not letting children handle fireworks and having water on hand to extinguish any flames.

Police departments across the state have sent out reminders that legal firecrackers can be set off between 1 and 9 p.m. Sunday.

Nationwide there were 15,600 fireworks-related injuries in 2020, compared with just 10,000 in 2019, according to a report from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, which said may have been an effect of the coronavirus pandemic.

“It is possible that the cessation of public firework displays during the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 spurred consumers to try out displays on their own, resulting in an approximately 50 percent increase in fireworks injuries,” the report said.

HFD said 116 fireworks permits were issued on Oahu for the Fourth of July, up from the 71 permits issued last year — but still far fewer than the 20,000 or so regularly issued for New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day celebrations.

HFD said, however, that there are no firecracker vendors who have registered with the department this year.

KFD issued three permits this year in anticipation of the holiday weekend, but Alden Alayvilla, a spokesman for Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami, wrote in an email that they will be refunded because the Fire Department’s Fire Prevention Bureau suspended permit sales due to a fireworks shortage.

He said 460 permits have been issued so far this year on Kauai, compared with 475 last year, although “most permits are bought in anticipation for the New Year’s Eve holiday.”

On Oahu the Honolulu Police Department and Parks and Recreation Department are reminding the public that overnight camping at Ala Moana Beach Park will not be permitted Sunday or Monday, as was usually the case when there was a fireworks show.

More visitors have been coming to the islands lately, but it’s not entirely clear how many will fly in during the weekend. Alex Da Silva, spokesman for Hawaiian Airlines, said there will be 32 daily flights each way between Hawaii and the mainland in July — more than this time in 2019, when the airline was operating 27 flights each day to and from the mainland.

There will be 135 interisland flights daily with additional service to meet the demands of the weekend, four weekly flights between Honolulu and Japan, and two weekly flights between Honolulu and South Korea.

“While we are operating more flights between the U.S. mainland and Hawaii this month than we did at the same time in 2019 … we are doing significantly less international flying and, while our neighbor island schedule has been picking up, it remains below what we used to offer pre-pandemic,” Da Silva said in an email.

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