Police Chief Describes Legally Bought Fireworks as ‘Huge Hazard’

By J.D. WATSON | Jun 26, 2019
Photo by: Ryan Morrill

Surf City — In 2017, New Jersey became the 48th state to legalize some use of consumer fireworks but their use still remains highly regulated and restricted.

“We’ll get complaints all summer. It’s any holiday, really,” said Surf City Police Chief Jack Casella.

He noted the law change two years ago allowed for the purchase and legal use of certain types of fireworks: “sparklers, ground-based sparklers, novelties like poppers and smoke balls, those poppers you throw at the ground and they make a noise.”

Excluded are larger, more dangerous forms of explosives. “Certainly not Roman Candles, M-80s – they can blow things and fingers apart,” the chief said.

Professional football player Jason Pierre Paul lost his right index finger and fractured his right thumb in a career-threatening fireworks accident in 2015. The accident happened at his home in Florida; he played for the New York Giants at the time. In 2017, eight people died and over 12,000 people were injured by fireworks severely enough to require medical treatment, according to the National Safety Council.

“It’s a huge hazard, especially when mixed with alcohol,” Casella said. “Things can go bad pretty quickly.”

Beyond physical injury to residents and visitors, Casella worries about possible property damage from improperly used fireworks. “If an ember or a spark lands in the dune grass or the phragmites, it can burn pretty hot. Or in the Japanese pines, it can catch and go,” he said.

Casella said complaints usually result in a warning and confiscation of the illegal fireworks. “We try to be the least impactful. We give a warning and drown the fireworks in a 5-gallon bucket filled with water back at the station.”

More than anything, Casella stressed he wants everyone to be able to have a happy, safe summer.  —J.D.W.

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