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Slatington considers fireworks ordinance

Published July 11. 2019 12:17PM

Slatington Borough Council is considering an ordinance that would ban setting off consumer grade fireworks between the hours of 9 p.m. and 9 a.m., unless a special permit has been sought for an event.

The state enacted Act 43, a law governing fireworks, in 2017. It replaces one from 1939. The act made it legal to set off consumer fireworks, such as firecrackers, bottle rockets, Roman candles and other products with less than 50 milligrams of explosive material.

Sparklers and fire caps are also permitted, but are not considered a consumer-grade firework. These are considered ground and hand-held sparkling devices, novelties or toy caps under the American Pyrotechnics Association Standard, from which the law references.

Police Chief David Rachman said the borough’s police department received numerous complaints over the long holiday weekend from residents about fireworks going off in their neighborhoods.

“This has been a disaster,” he said. “People don’t understand the law.”

Professional grade fireworks of 60 milligrams or more of explosive material and those with aerial shells that are used for displays are still illegal.

“No one read what is illegal and where (it can be used),” Rachman said.

According to Act 43, the state’s new law also prohibits:

• Setting off consumer fireworks on public or private property without the owner’s permission;

• Using the fireworks inside a motor vehicle or building, as well as throwing them from a motor vehicle or building;

• Throwing them at a motor vehicle, building or person from any location;

• Using fireworks by anyone impaired by alcohol or drugs, and;

• Using fireworks within 150 feet of a building that is occupied.

The 150-foot buffer is “half the length of a football field,” Councilman Thomas Bartholomew said. “This precludes most fireworks within the borough.”

The state law also makes it a third-degree felony if a person sells federally illegal explosive devices “or those devices that have not been tested, approved and labeled by the United States Department of Transportation, including, but not limited to, those devices commonly referred to as M-80, M-100, blockbuster, cherry bomb or quarter or half stick explosive devices …,” as stated in the law.

“Most of the complaints are about things that are illegal,” Rachman said. “It’s been a real problem for everyone.”

Residents hear the fireworks, call the police, and we have to respond, but too often the caller doesn’t know where the fireworks are being set off or by whom. When police arrive, only the remnants remain. They don’t know who set off the fireworks.

“We need cooperation. We can’t do this alone,” he said. “Report it when it happens.”

Rachman said they had calls come in after the fireworks ended. All he could tell his officers to do was to talk to the residents and educate them about the new law.

If Slatington’s new ordinance is passed and a person is caught using the fireworks or in possession of the fireworks, then he or she can be cited. The property owner and the tenant also can be cited for the firework violation, even if they did not light the firework.

The ordinance also bans the use of consumer fireworks on all borough property including parks, buildings, other structures, streets, sidewalks and rights of way, unless a special permit is secured.

People found setting off consumer fireworks between 9 p.m. and 9 a.m. and/or on unauthorized property would face a $50 to $100 fine for the first offense, according to Slatington’s proposed ordinance. A second violation carries a fine of $100 to $300. A third violation and each subsequent violation has a fine of $500 to $1,000 and/or 30 days in jail.

The proposed ordinance will be advertised for the public to read and can be read at the borough’s municipal office.

The council members will vote on it at their meeting on Aug. 12.

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