Love making things blow up? Consumer fireworks are now legal in Pennsylvania, but that doesn’t mean you can explode them whenever and wherever you want to.
That was the message delivered by Hellertown Police Chief Robert Shupp in response to resident concerns about fireworks at Monday night’s borough council meeting.
In particular, residents from the north end of Hellertown spoke out about fireworks they said are noisy and possibly even dangerous.
“I don’t think this is a peaceful and tranquil town any longer,” said one woman who didn’t give her name but said she lives in the 1500 block of Main Street.
The woman told Shupp and council that the fireworks being exploded by her neighbors have “traumatized” her dog and made her feel like she’s living in a “war zone.”
Unless her neighbors who are shooting off fireworks have very large yards, she was told, they are likely violating the state’s consumer fireworks law, which mandates that the explosives be at least 150 feet from any occupied residences when they’re lit.
It is also illegal to detonate consumer fireworks on streets, sidewalks and anywhere on borough-owned property in Hellertown.
“There are very few places where people can shoot them off (legally) within borough limits,” council president Tom Rieger said.
Hellertown borough also has an ordinance which stipulates the cutoff time for fireworks–10 o’clock at night–and prescribes penalties for the illegal use of fireworks.
But can the borough outlaw them completely, one resident asked.
The simple answer to that question is, “no.”
Since the state made consumer fireworks legal in late 2017, that is no longer possible, because local law can’t supercede state law, council solicitor Michael Corriere explained.
“We can never supercede state law,” Shupp reiterated. “We can’t say, ‘You can’t do that,’ because the state says you can.”
Shupp told the concerned residents his department is doing its best to respond to reports of fireworks that are disturbing the peace and potentially violating state and local law.
The problem they are encountering is that many residents who call to report the use of fireworks after 10 p.m., or within 150 feet of their properties, want to remain anonymous.
Without a witness who is willing to go on the record and testify in court if necessary, Shupp said police can only cite someone if they actually see them detonate a firework outside the approved time window or too close to someone else’s property.
“It’s frustrating,” he said. “I get it.”
One resident who said she lives off Cherry Lane is frequently bothered by the use of fireworks near her home questioned whether the borough is doing enough to educate residents about the state law and its own fireworks ordinance.
Rieger said the borough recently posted about the legal use of fireworks on social media and included a reminder in its most recent email newsletter. The borough will continue to make that information available, he said, in order to help educate the public.
Residents should also remember the Golden Rule, and “respect your neighbors,” he added.