USA — County officials said that they would look at the possibility of stricter regulation of fireworks, following Tuesday’s signing of a bill by Gov. Linda Lingle giving the counties legal authority to limit or ban fireworks.
The County Council Committee of the Whole likely will start collecting information about the issue, said Mike Molina, the committee’s chairman.
Mayor Charmaine Tavares said that she would meet with fire and police officials and with the Hawaii Council of Mayors to see what to do with the county’s new authority to regulate fireworks.
The new law also sets up an illegal fireworks task force aimed at developing a plan and making recommendations to stop the importation of illegal fireworks and explosives into the state.
Council Member Sol Kaho’ohalahala said that he was interested in seeing what the task force would recommend when it reports back to the state Legislature in January.
State law will continue to allow consumer fireworks on New Year’s Eve, Chinese New Year and the Fourth of July. Aerials and other dangerous explosives are illegal except in permitted professional displays.
Now counties can impose limits beyond what the state does.
Molina cited the severe injuries to two children in a fireworks explosion in a truck in Waihee this past New Year’s.
Molina said that he hopes that at least a beginning on investigating legislation can happen this year, before New Year’s, although “I don’t think we’ll get anything done by the Fourth of July.”
Molina said that, based on what he hears, “for the most part, people are tolerant of a certain amount of it going off,” but that concern about fireworks seems to grow year by year.
“It’s important that we address this issue as soon as possible. I’d like to get additional public input,” he said.
Molina said that his panel, the Committee of the Whole, would be a reasonable place to start reviewing fireworks, as that is where legislation of a general nature often starts.
Tavares said she’d like to see more restrictions on fireworks, particularly because of the danger they pose in starting brush fires during the county’s ongoing drought.
“It’s so easy to have brush fires start from fireworks,” she said.
A big problem for firefighters and police is illegal aerial fireworks that apparently get into the hands of people through black market shipments, Tavares said.
“We don’t have enough police and firefighters to monitor everywhere” on holidays such as New Year’s Eve and the Fourth of July, she said. When residents complain about illegal fireworks, “it’s over by the time the police get there.”