Fires help bolster argument to ban fireworks

Fires help bolster argument to ban fireworks
Capt. Terry Seelig
Capt. Terry Seelig
Gary Okino
Gary Okino

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The fireworks fuse is burning toward July 14.  That's the next Honolulu city council vote on banning fireworks.

An aerial view shows just how close the Kalama Valley fire came to disaster.  At the top of the ridge and down at the bottom of the mountain the flames burned 200 acres and came just yards away from homes.  Firefighters have confirmed it was started by an illegal aerial firework.

"It's just time to stop this.  The danger to the community is just too great at this point," said Gary Okino, Honolulu City Councilmember.

Councilman Okino already introduced a bill for an outright ban on fireworks even sparklers.  Statistics from the fire department are helping Okino's argument.  Yesterday alone Honolulu had 51 fire calls, 16 of which were fireworks related.  On an average day they only get eight fire calls.

"It illustrates that there is a real risky behavior associated with the use of the product," said Capt. Terry Seelig, Honolulu Fire Department.  "You look at the risk and what could possibly happen and on this island we have a lot of risk because we have a lot of people."

"Fireworks today cause more smoke, more fire, the explosive danger is so much greater. These bombs are more powerful. It's a tragedy waiting to happen," said Okino.

No homes were destroyed.  And paramedics say they didn't get a single emergency call for a fireworks related injury on Oahu.  Although it's unknown how many people may have driven themselves to the hospital.

"No I don't think fireworks should be banned because its July 4th. We should have fun you know," said Jace Andaya, Waipahu.

"Hawaii, as a community has grown up with fireworks all our lives. It was an exciting thing and part of our lives but I believe with the times and with safety, we have to think about the good that would come out of it. Also you know there are a lot of fires that are a result of it and people with health problems would benefit from it as well so we need to think about the safety of our community and not just about ourselves," said Jessie Oshiro, Windward Oahu.

"I think people should be able to celebrate their freedom," said Chris Ellsworth, Wahiawa

"The benefits that we get from fireworks do not outweigh the risks with people who have respiratory problems to people that driving on the roads at night when there is no wind. It can cause car accidents and to the pets and animals that are freaking out all night because of the fireworks and the fireworks persist after the holiday and also before," said Michael Shapiro, Kailua.

While public opinion is split on the issue the city council is too.

"I think it's going to be close if it does pass at all you know the lobbyists are intensifying their effort, somehow they get their way with a lot of people," said Okino.

The ban would not include commercial fireworks shows like the one at Magic Island.

Public testimony is allowed before the July 14 council vote. If the council approves the bill next Wednesday it would then go back to committee and still would need to pass another vote of the full council before becoming law.

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