Reviewing Sparkler and Firework Policy

Should sparklers and fireworks be prohibited in Columbia County?

May 31, 2018

On June 13, there is a public forum and vote on whether or not to prohibit sparklers and fireworks in Columbia County. Sparklers and fireworks are currently prohibited in Columbia County. NYS has changed the law and Counties are now setting their own policy.

Safety Concerns

In 2013, NY Department of State’s Division of Consumer Protection and State Department of Labor stated, “Sparklers and bottle rockets contributed to approximately 20 percent of the firework-related injuries reported last year. Last year, there were approximately 5,000 injuries and hospitalizations in the United States related to fireworks. Consumer fireworks cause injuries most often to the hands, eyes, head, face, and ears and more than half of these injuries are burns that occur to children under the age of 15.” 

Columbia County Fire Association and NYS Fire Fighters Association oppose the legalization of fireworks.

Does Prohibition Help?

I couldn’t find any clear causation between prohibition and safety. But there are studies that found a correlation. This means that allowing fireworks is associated with more injuries, but the cause could be something other than the change in the law.

I couldn’t find any studies that focused on prohibition of fireworks within a small geographic area. Fireworks are legal in several counties that neighbor Columbia County and people can easily travel back and forth between counties.

Are Fireworks an Improvement to Quality of Life?

A few people have reached out to me in support of sparklers and against prohibition.


Will Prohibition Be Enforced?

I’m wondering if prohibition of sparkling devices is a good use of our limited law enforcement and court resources? Are we expecting people to call the police if a neighbor is lighting sparklers? And do we expect the police to go to people’s houses and issue citations? I’m skeptical that that is a good use of resources. And I’m also hesitant to put a new law on the books if we are expecting selective enforcement.

July 13 Update: I decided to vote against the prohibition. I'm particulary concerned about targeting the possession of sparklers which seems impracical and will likely be enforced inconsistently.

Read the full resolution.