Fireworks sales — and noise complaints — near record

With Dayton canceling the annual Lights in Flight Fireworks Festival this weekend people packed the TNT Fireworks store on Union Road to make their own light show. Fireworks sales have been up lately according to fireworks shops. JIM NOELKER/STAFF
With Dayton canceling the annual Lights in Flight Fireworks Festival this weekend people packed the TNT Fireworks store on Union Road to make their own light show. Fireworks sales have been up lately according to fireworks shops. JIM NOELKER/STAFF

Although many large Independence Day celebrations are canceled this summer, backyard consumer fireworks sales are on the rise, along with noise complaints.

In 2019, $1 billion of the fireworks industry’s $1.4 billion revenue came from backyard consumer fireworks, Julie Heckman, executive director of the American Pyrotechnic Association, said. This year, fireworks sales began spiking earlier — around Memorial Day weekend — and some retailers across the country are reporting that sales are up double or triple, she said.

Dayton police cracking down on fireworks

The APA is predicting record-breaking sales this year.

One retailer reported selling more fireworks this Memorial Day weekend than in the past four Memorial Day weekends combined, said Larry Farnsworth, spokesperson for the National Fireworks Association.

“I believe that is primarily due to the COVID pandemic and people looking for something to do since they’ve been in basically lockdown mode for the past three months,” Heckman said. “You can’t go to a movie theater, or a concert or a fair or a festival and so they have turned to backyard consumer fireworks earlier than ever before.”

Farnsworth said though sales have been increasing over the past several years, people are likely gravitating toward fireworks this year as they provide a form of entertainment that can allow people to socially distance while providing “a sense of normalcy.” The cancellation of larger fireworks events as well as the Fourth of July falling on a Saturday are also likely contributing to the increased sales, he said.

TNT Fireworks — which has stores across the country including one on Union Road in Jefferson Twp. — also has seen an increase in sales, said Sherri Simmons, spokeswoman for TNT. She said the earlier spike could be caused by people wanting to purchase fireworks ahead of Independence Day in order to maintain social distancing and avoid waiting in a line.

Wesley Snedigar, general manager at Shelton’s Fireworks in New Paris, said that after being shut down for six weeks, the shop is having record sales.

As event after event was canceled, Snedigar said his customers purchased fireworks to celebrate everything from graduations to weddings.

“When I hear fireworks this year or any other year, I smile a little bit because somebody’s celebrating something,” he said.

Others feel differently.

Fireworks complaints to Dayton police are up by 1,100 percent, Lt. John Riegel said Wednesday. The Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office has received 259 complaints about fireworks between Jan. 1 and June 30 this year compared to 27 complaints in the same time frame last year.

Frances Montgomery, a Dayton Realtor who lives in the Huffman Historic Neighborhood, says she has heard fireworks sporadically going off late into the night every night since March.

RELATED: Dayton police: Fireworks are dangerous and already killed a woman this year

“One of the things that I sell when I sell a home is a bundle of legal rights, which includes the right to the quiet enjoyment of your property,” she said. “We are not having any of that at this point with all the fireworks. They’re horrible.”

In Ohio, it’s legal to buy fireworks, but not to set them off. Only sparklers and other novelty fireworks that don’t leave the ground are legal and use of other consumer-grade fireworks — such as bottle rockets and Roman candles — can result in a first-degree misdemeanor charge punishable by up to a $1,000 fine and six months in jail.

Possession of commercial-grade fireworks is a first-degree misdemeanor and exhibition of commercial fireworks is a third-degree felony punishable by up to 18 months in jail and a $5,000 fine.

“People need to remember that these are dangerous devices. Specifically, the commercial-grade fireworks could cause injury and even death,” Riegel said.

He said there has been an uptick in use of commercial-grade fireworks going late into the night, but that injuries have not increased.

Montgomery said the fireworks scare her 12-year-old Yorkshire terrier who has stopped eating at night. While she hopes the fireworks stop after July 4, she is not overly optimistic.

Susan Calhoun of Huber Heights said that she is unsure whether the fireworks she hears in her neighborhood have even been purchased legally and hopes police will take action.

“These aren’t normal fireworks,” she said. “I expect to have some firecrackers and some bottle rockets. I expect that, and that’s not anything that I would complain about or would impact me really, but these are like explosions.”

Farnsworth said it is important that people purchasing fireworks follow local laws and ordinances, and Heckman said it’s important for anyone considering using fireworks to be respectful and courteous of their neighbors.

“It’s always a good idea to let your neighbors know if you plan to engage in backyard firework activities, especially if they have young children, if they’re taking care of elderly parents like many of us are doing right now, if they have pets, or a lot of us have neighbors who are veterans that may suffer from PTSD,” she said.

RELATED: Fireworks upset some Dayton area residents. Others think it’s no big deal

John Moore, public information officer for the Kettering Fire Department, said that even sparklers can be dangerous. They reach about 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit and often are put in the hands of kids.

Glow sticks and silly string can be a good alternative for kids, he said, and taking this year off from fireworks might be best.

“I would find a public display somewhere or maybe just take the year off and we’ll get back to public displays next year hopefully,” he said.

While many shows in the Dayton area have been canceled, some fireworks shows — such as those in Fairfield and Beavercreek — will continue with social distancing guidelines in place for viewers.

Safety for use of legal, home fireworks

  • Have a hose and bucket of water nearby, even for sparklers.
  • A sober adult should be the "designated shooter."
  • Never hold fireworks in your hand
  • Always read the instructions

For more safety tips: