Fireworks present danger to our city and its residents. Lancaster is a dense and historic city. Our housing stock is old, and many homes have rubber roofs particularly susceptible to damage from consumer-grade aerial fireworks. Protecting our neighbors, their homes, and the well-being of our city is a top concern.
As we’ve seen in our community and regionally, the improper use of fireworks can cause great harm. While professional displays a few times a year bring us together, the illegal use of fireworks brings great risk and diminishes the quality of life in our neighborhoods. As soon as warmer weather arrives, we hear this concern constantly from residents.
In 2017, Act 43 of 2017 (House Bill 542) was signed into law allowing greater access to consumer-grade fireworks. This was a mistake. Act 43 repealed the Fireworks Act of 1939 and left Lancaster and cities like it vulnerable to the dangers of these fireworks. Under current laws, the use of consumer-grade fireworks is illegal within 150 feet of an occupied structure or on public property, which in Lancaster City makes them virtually impossible to use lawfully.
While this is the case, enforcement of this law is challenging. Our officers must witness the use of fireworks to issue a citation with a fine up to $100 and the volume of calls combined with simultaneous emergencies gives little opportunity for our police to curb this dangerous activity. Still, we continue to make that effort.
Right now, we have a chance to make our community safer. A bill limiting the use of consumer-grade fireworks and giving cities more authority to ban them in Pennsylvania has passed the state House of Representatives with bipartisan support. The bill now goes to the Senate for a vote.*
We urge our elected leaders to support this effort and for residents to use their voices to demonstrate widespread enthusiasm for this change.
Finally, this Independence Day, please celebrate responsibly and safely, and urge your neighbors to do the same.
By: Chief Todd Hutchinson & Interim Chief Richard Mendez
*As of July 1, the bill has passed the House and Senate and is now awaiting the governor’s signature.