WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — A grassroots effort is underway in our region to repeal or modify a Pennsylvania law that allows the sale of certain types of aerial fireworks such as bottle rockets and roman candles.
Organizers describe the last several weeks in area communities as a “war zone.” The law they want repealed is Act 43. It was passed in 2017. It allowed the sale of so-called “consumer grade” fireworks to the public—things such as bottle rockets and other aerial fireworks that had previously been illegal in the commonwealth.
But opponents say it has opened the door for some potentially very dangerous situations and has led to a lot of damage and noise complaints.
“The hood started burning from the fireworks. It’s badly burned. It was set deliberately under my tire under the car,” said Theresa Robinson of Wilkes-Barre.
Robinson called Wilkes-Barre Police when she found the damage on her car parked outside her Matson Avenue home on Monday morning.
“I didn’t expect to come out here and find my car damaged from fireworks. So this looks like it was deliberately set under my tire,” said Robinson.
Wilkes-Barre Police have responded to nearly 800 calls like this over the past three days. Mayor George Brown blames it on Act 43 which he says opened the door for a multitude of problems. Problems that he says tie the hands of local communities.
“We have to repeal it so we can have more power in the municipalities to enforce it. I want to change the fine from $100 we have now to $1,000 enticing people not to buy them and not to set them off,” said Brown.
Mayor Brown has placed full page ads in local newspapers and on the city’s website urging people to send letters to Governor Wolf and state lawmakers urging them to push for the repeal of the law. A local citizen group is also starting a petition drive with the same goal in mind.
“We are going to sign this, send these and hopefully make a difference and show them that the residents are also behind the mayor. We got calls from all over the valley that want the petition so they can start using it,” said Linda Joseph, President of the Rolling Mill Hill Neighborhood Association.
Brad Ray owns the fireworks warehouse near Hazleton and he says the law is not the problem, it’s people being reckless.
“We are a free people. You have to take personal responsibility for your actions. If you are using fireworks illegally or not in proper fashion, there are laws on the books, you know, to punish you for that,” said Ray.
Eyewitness News reached out to several state lawmakers about the issue. State Representative Eddie Day Pashinski says an effort is underway in Harrisburg to repeal Act 43, saying it has led to too many dangerous situations.
State Senator John Yudichak also told Eyewitness News he is reviewing the law with an emphasis on allowing for more enforcement powers to local communities such as Wilkes-Barre. Eyewitness News also reached out to the governor’s office for comment. We have not yet had a response.
Mayor Brown will be meeting with crimewatch groups and neighborhood associations this coming Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at St. Andrew’s Church on Parrish Street to discuss the Act 43 repeal effort.