While fireworks and the Fourth of July may go hand in hand, losing a hand is no way to celebrate, say local police who want to remind the public that injuries and property damage aside, certain fireworks in Pennsylvania are still illegal.
"Anything that explodes or goes up in the air is illegal," Altoona Police Sgt. Brian Freiwald said Thursday, adding that not only are many fireworks against state law, but a city ordinance also calls for a fine of between $100 and $1,000 or up to 90 days in jail for illegal fireworks.
Freiwald said fireworks cause a particular concern in Altoona where the houses are built close together, so bottle rockets, Roman candles and other airborne fireworks have the potential of starting fires.
Then there are the complaints that Freiwald said flood the department in the days leading up to and after the holiday.
"It's fair to say it's in the 100s," Freiwald said. Police do what they can to answer those calls, and if police catch people setting off illegal fireworks, they will get cited and have their fireworks confiscated.
Throughout the area, tents have sprung up in recent weeks to sell novelty fireworks that are permitted in Pennsylvania. In Logan Township, police make sure each vendor is licensed and officers follow up to make sure they aren't also selling anything illegal on the sly, said Logan Township Police Chief Ron Heller.
"Pennsylvania has some of the strictest fireworks laws," Heller said. The department sends out both uniformed and plainclothes officers to check up on the array of vendors who temporarily set up in parking lots, but so far everyone has been on the level, and the township hasn't had any problems.
Throughout the weekend, the department is certain to get calls about illegal fireworks in neighborhoods, and police will be following up, Heller said.
"If we witness it or have witnesses who will testify, we'll press charges," he said.
State police spokesman Trooper Jeffrey Petucci said state police will also be getting calls about fireworks and echoed the sentiments of local police.
Duncansville Police Chief James Ott said officers try to address the issue when they can and said it's an issue in every municipality.
While he said he understands that it's the Fourth of July holiday, and people want to have fun and that fireworks are fun and exciting, folks also need to abide by the law.
"The sad part is, whether it's entertaining or exciting or not, it's still illegal," Ott said.
Mirror Staff Writer Greg Bock is at 946-7458.