The annual cacophany that in recent years has come to symbolize the lead up to Independence Day is affecting Hellertown, which is likely why police chief Robert Shupp reminded residents about the borough’s fireworks ordinance in an email Friday.
This is the third summer season since Pennsylvania overhauled its consumer fireworks law, making most types legal for purchase by state residents who are at least 18.
The Hellertown fireworks ordinance includes the following stipulations.
A person may not intentionally ignite or discharge:
- Consumer fireworks on public or private property without the express permission of the owner.
- Consumer fireworks or sparkling devices within, or throw consumer fireworks or sparkling devices from, a motor vehicle or building.
- Consumer fireworks or sparkling devices into or at a motor vehicle or building or at another person.
- Consumer fireworks or sparkling devices while the person is under the influence of alcohol, a controlled substance or another drug.
- Consumer fireworks within 150 feet of an occupied structure.
The requirement that fireworks may not be exploded within 150 feet of any occupied structure is significant because it means most Hellertown homeowners may not explode them in their yards, since very few properties in the borough possess yards that large.
“There are very few places where people can shoot them off (legally) within borough limits,” borough council president Tom Rieger observed in June 2019.
Ordinance 824 also states that consumer fireworks shall not be ignited or discharged on streets, sidewalks or any property owned by the Borough of Hellertown, including parks.
Consumer fireworks may only be discharged before 10 p.m. under the ordinance, and anyone violating the ordinance “shall have their fireworks confiscated and destroyed and the owner shall be responsible for the storage and destruction of the fireworks,” it says. Violators are also subject to a fine of not more than $1,000 per violation, and may be imprisoned to the extent allowed by law for the punishment of a summary offense.
“Please be safe and remember to be courteous to your neighbors and other residents of the Borough of Hellertown,” Shupp said in his email.
Throughout Pennsylvania and around the nation, communities of all sizes have reported an increase in backyard fireworks displays–and problems associated with them–this year.
One anecdotal theory about the uptick is that stay-at-home orders put in place during the coronavirus pandemic as well as other stressors unique to 2020 are manifesting themselves in higher-than-normal levels of individualistic behavior; behavior that is often a subject of criticism by pet owners, particularly on Facebook.
A community fireworks display is currently being planned by Dewey Fire Co. for late August at Steel Club, however permission from borough council is necessary. That will be a subject for discussion on the agenda at the July 6 Hellertown Borough Council meeting.