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Niagara County Legislature puts sparkler law on hold

Thu, Mar 5th 2015 12:45 pm

Staff reports

The Niagara County Legislature removed a proposal to legalize sparklers and other novelty fireworks from its agenda Tuesday night.

"I think the sponsors would like to review it more ... that's usually why (resolutions) are removed," Legislature Chairman Bill Ross said. He added it was up to the bill's sponsors Anthony Nemi, Richard Updegrove and John Syracuse to decide whether or not to reintroduce the resolution at a later date.

None of the sponsors could be reached for comment.

In the meantime, opposition quickly rose in response to the Wheatfield Town Board's decision last Monday to urge the legislature to vote against such a bill.

Last Wednesday, Town Supervisor Bob Cliffe was contacted by Charles Walker, director of compliance at Alabama-based American Promotional Events Inc., which operates the fireworks sales center TNT Fireworks.

In an email, Walker said he wanted to provide the town with "the real facts surrounding the legalization of sparklers."

He argued the statistics regarding sparklers that firefighters have cited in their opposition is based on all kinds of fireworks, not just sparklers. Furthermore, he said, statistics have not shown an increase in sparkler-related injuries for 15 years, despite their being legalized in nine states and Puerto Rico during that time.

Walker concluded his letter by writing, "We are grateful for the good work that our volunteer firefighters do, but the facts show ensuring the legal distribution of sparklers will help make their jobs safer. The well-being of the people of Wheatfield is at stake and we respectfully ask that you reconsider your position."

Cliffe responded that the board's motion was not made "off the cuff" and was supported by the findings of 10 fire department chiefs and presidents. He wrote, "They take their job very seriously; we listen with great interest to everything they recommend."

He also reminded Walker that Wheatfield's motion did not actually ban fireworks sales; it only recommended the county do so. Cliffe also sent Walker a number of letters and reports from firefighters associations, which the town's decision was ultimately based on.

On Friday, Cliffe received another response from Walker, again lambasting the town's decision and questioning the statistics reported. Walker wrote, "While we appreciate the service of the town's Fire Advisory Board, it is critical to point out that they are using disingenuous methods to sway your opinion."

He countered a Firemen's Association of the State of New York report that said 1,000 reported injuries involved sparklers and bottle rockets by saying bottle rockets are not included in the proposed legislation. Walker also argued that other reports similarly included fireworks that would not be made legal if the legislation passed.

He wrote, "This is simply a case of creatively using numbers to skew public opinion ‐ it is a scare tactic."

After arguing that regulation would be safer because that residents would simply go to another state or Canada to purchase fireworks anyway, Walker ended his second letter by writing, "Wheatfield residents are going to use them one way or another, we should give them the safest products possible. Again, we strongly encourage you to reconsider."

In response to that letter, Cliffe told the Tribune, "Any kid loves fireworks, loves to see them go off, loves the bang and the sparkles. I played with sparklers when I was young, and blew off my share of M80 Salutes in my teens. But I did get mildly burned a couple of times ... only by luck was it not worse.

"If a parent feels that they can control the safety of their kids, they can go to Pennsylvania or Ontario and buy sparklers for their own use, I won't suggest that the police chase them down. However, if not handled safely, the parent should pay a price.

"Leave fireworks to the trained professionals."


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