'Dodged a bullet': Illegal aerials lit up much of Oahu on New Year's
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Consumer fireworks have been banned on Oahu for seven years, but you'd never know it if you looked to the sky on New Year's Eve.
First responders said it was another busy — and dangerous — start to the new year, and the only reason there weren't more injuries and fires was because of vigilant neighbors and just plain luck.
"We dodged a bullet," said Honolulu Fire Department Capt. Scot Seguirant, in a news conference on Monday.
"Last year was a bad year. This year has been better, but how many fires were not reported is another question. And then quick actions from neighbors, putting out fires ... is what really saved us this year."
Firefighters responded to six fireworks-related blazes from Sunday night to Monday morning, and none were serious.
A brush fire in Hawaii Kai was put out quickly, but at one point, the flames were inching closer to homes at the top of a ridge.
There were also several serious injuries reported, including a 21-year-old man who lost part of his hand when a firework exploded in it. The incident happened on Mokihana Street, and paramedics took the man to a hospital in serious condition.
A Big Island man also lost a finger on New Year's when a firework exploded in his hand.
Social media posts showed illegal aerials going off in many neighborhoods, from Makakilo to Hawaii Kai to Kaneohe.
That's despite a pledge to step up police patrols islandwide on New Year's Eve.
A tally on the number of citations issued was not immediately available, but police Deputy Chief John McCarthy said officers did cite two men who were making a delivery of illegal aerial fireworks in a large U-Haul truck in Kaneohe.
The two were not arrested, but a felony investigation has been opened.
The value of the hundreds of pounds of illegal aerials in the truck was $25,000, police sources said.
Shayne Enright, spokeswoman for the city Department of Emergency Services, said paramedics responded to 166 calls from 6 p.m. New Year's Eve to 6 a.m. Monday.
Other fireworks-related calls included a 38-year-old man who suffered a serious head injury after dropping an illegal firework and running, falling and hitting his head, and a 46-year-old man who suffered burns to his hands after a firework started a fire in his garage.
Enright noted that while the number of fireworks-related injuries appears low compared to previous years, "one is too many, since they were all avoidable."
McCarthy said while officers sought to curb the use of illegal aerials, catching someone in the act of lighting off fireworks isn't easy. Police are also now able to use video evidence to issue citations for illegal fireworks. But the person who shot the video must be willing to authenticate it and be willing to testify.
"It's a really difficult thing," he said, adding that he saw aerials going off in his own neighborhood on New Year's Eve.
"I saw mayhem about midnight and all of it was illegal," he said. "We dodged a bullet again. These things are explosives."
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This story will be updated.
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