Fourth of July fireworks legal only in three counties

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NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (WIVB) — For the first time in more than 100 years, New Yorkers can light up more than sparklers to celebrate the Fourth of July legally.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed off on a new law back in November, allowing the sale of small fireworks to consumers, under strict conditions. The law gives counties the last word, by “opting in” to the new relaxed restrictions.

State officials say 30 counties have exercised their options, but only three local governments have done so in Western New York: Niagara, Cattaraugus, and Allegany counties.

Katey Schultz, was loading up on the legal pyrotechnics at a fireworks stand in North Tonawanda, and said, “It’s the greatest thing ever. It needed to happen a long time ago.”

Proprietor Gary D’Amico pitched his fireworks tent in the parking lot of the Walmart Supercenter, in North Tonawanda, and said it makes sense to sell tightly regulated fireworks, rather than forcing people to go out of state.

“It has already been approved for this state, and there is directions with each one of these items so you know what is is you are buying, and how to go about using it.”

For some customers, like Kyle Brant of Ransomville, this will be their holiday celebration.

“I think it is pretty cool. You can stay at home and do your own thing, instead of going out. Enjoy it in the privacy of your own area, as long as you don’t disrupt other people, obviously.”

But fire officials across Niagara County had urged county lawmakers to opt out of legalization for the fireworks, worried that more fireworks could lead to more fires.

Niagara Falls felt the new law could wreak havoc in the city, and were initially advised the city could opt out, after the county approved the fireworks. But officials from State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services warned, the city had no option after Niagara County’s approval.

Niagara Falls Fire Prevention Chief Dan Ciszek said, even the low power fireworks could cause serious injuries.

“These are considered sparkling devices. They burn at 1800 degrees and if you have children running around with them, they can cause burns to their hands.”

Assistant North Tonawanda Fire Chief Joe Sikora said as long as the fireworks are handled responsibly, by adults, he doesn’t see any major problems.

“The proper supervision, common sense–it is going to take place, and not happen to be near a house, or inside a house, anything like that, and hopefully we will be able to get through this Fourth of July season without any additional problems.”

Mitzi Kolek, who is selling the legal fireworks from a tent at the Sam’s Club in Niagara Falls the products provide safe family entertainment, as long as they are properly operated by adults.

“You light it, everyone backs away, you just enjoy it. It is a nice thing to do with your family and your friends. If you don’t want to go to a big fireworks show, you want to do something back home, in your backyard, it is perfect.”

Gary D’Amico said sales are going well at his tent in North Tonawanda, and is amazed so few people even know they are legal.

“I still have people walking in and saying, ‘is it true, is it true, can we really buy this stuff? Is it really legal for me to take this stuff home and use it?'”

State law allows sales of the consumer fireworks from June 1 to July 5, then later in the year another window opens up for selling fireworks during the holidays, from December 26 to January 2.

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