WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE 28/WYOU 22 EYEWITNESS NEWS) — There’s a new call to stop aerial fireworks in Pennsylvania after a fourth of July weekend that saw several bad injuries and house fires.
As loud booms echoed across the region Sunday night, first responders in Wilkes-Barre battled back-to-back fires caused by fireworks including one that forced 8 people from their homes.
“On Westminister Street, the other night, those four children and those four adults didn’t ask for that firework to hit their house and get displaced from a fire,” said Chief Jay Delaney Wilkes-Barre Fire Department & EMA Coordinator, President, Pennsylvania Career Fire Chiefs Association.
While no one was hurt in the fires, it’s re-ignited the debate over Act 43, which allows anyone in Pennsylvania to purchase aerial fireworks legally.
While the measure passed in 2017 bans use within 150 feet of an occupied structure, cities like Wilkes-Barre just don’t have that amount of open space.
“They had a difficult fire in the beginning of their shift, never mind going from fire to fire to fire, because of someone’s disregard for the law, their neighbors and just to illegally set these off,” stated Chief Delaney.
Wilkes-Barre’s Fire Chief Delaney has more than 40 years of experience keeping communities safe.
He’s worked with the Pennsylvania career fire chiefs association since 2018, lobbying to repeal or change the law to allow municipalities to set their own regulations of fireworks, and increase penalties for violations.
“We believe for the safety of the first responders and the public we serve, something needs to be done to change the law,” said Delaney.
Pittston’s Mayor, Michael Lombardo, says it’s a change that has become increasingly necessary. He says more local leaders have joined the fight after what took place over the holiday weekend.
“One of the positive things that have happened are, their additional mayors. It certainly is a lot more than six. Six and myself originally represent the northeast contingent, but there are mayors all across the commonwealth; democrats, republicans, that feel the same way,” said Mayor Lombardo.
Senator Gene Yaw, who wrote the fireworks law, says he doesn’t want to change the law and blames local officials for not enforcing it.