A decade in, Oahu’s fireworks ban isn’t working. Now what?

Updated: Jan. 2, 2020 at 6:30 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - All you had to do was look up. Or even if you weren’t outside, you could definitely hear the blasts reaching a fever pitch at midnight.

Those came from the aerial fireworks that lit up the sky to ring in the new year. Some believe it was the most -- or worst -- they’ve ever seen.

“It’s 360 around that going off,” said professional photographer Terry Reis. “Just a larger amount of fireworks going off overall, in the air, at one time.”

Reis has been shooting the aerials around west Oahu for years. He said he could point his camera in any direction on New Year’s Eve -- and see an increase in fireworks.

“From Makakilo, Ewa, to town, and then Waikele area, Waipahu,” he said. “It was definitely ‘who was gonna win?’”

“Whether you’re for aerial fireworks or not, last night was a real display of a total failure of government of enforcing the law and what is coming in and out of our ports,” said Honolulu City Councilwoman Kymberly Pine.

Pine said she believes there were more aerials in her Ewa Beach neighborhood. She blames a shortage of inspectors at Oahu’s ports.

“That’s how drugs are coming in, other illegal substances,” said Pine. “That’s where illegal fireworks are coming in. It’s all at our ports.”

In the first three weeks of December, the Honolulu Police Department reported more than 500 complaints about fireworks. HPD said officers would be on the hunt of illegal activity this year, and warmed property owners about a new law that could make them liable.

“It’s your house, it’s your property, it’s your responsibility. And if you have guests that are going that, you should be telling them that that’s against the law,” said Honolulu Police Capt. David Chang.

Whether the crackdown actually happened is unclear. Online, some people complained that officers stood by and watched the illegal celebrations, but did nothing.

A 2010 law aimed at reducing injuries and smoke outlawed nearly all consumer fireworks on Oahu, including novelty fireworks like sparklers.

Some feel the ban has driven more families to the black market, where the firepower is much greater.

“Sparklers you figured would be the thing you would have for the kids to play with, but I guess they seem to be more dangerous than getting an aerial?” said Reis, who added that he didn’t understand the thought process behind the ban.

“We have a lot of families that are doing this for fun, but they’re not realizing that you could actually die or kill someone else if you’re not properly trained to do the aerials,” said Pine.

HPD did not immediately have any available figures on the number of complaints, or if there were any fireworks-related arrests, on New Year’s Eve.

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