PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — One thing we know Pittsburghers love is a good fireworks show. However, with public shows canceled this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, residents are putting on their own shows and that means a lot of complaints.
“You think of gunshots when you hear that sound and you’re not prepared for it,” said one North Side resident who lives on the Mexican War Streets. He wished to remain anonymous.
“We’ve been hearing fireworks every night. Day and night, but most annoying is 1 a.m.,” he said.
He’s not the only one.
“Probably one of our primary worries, that it could spark a fire somewhere and these houses would burn,” said North Side resident Dick.
With complaints up significantly, not just across the city, but all across the country, the City of Pittsburgh has formed a Fireworks Taskforce.
According to city officials, fireworks complaint calls have increased 389% compared to last year. From June 1 to 21 of this year, Pittsburgh Police received 137 complaints compared to last year’s 28 calls.
The new task force will address the use of illegal fireworks within city limits.
“We will have a certain amount of cars teamed with the Pittsburgh Bureau of Fire and Pittsburgh police officers. There is a certain amount in each police district and will respond with police to any complaints phoned into 911 and also if they receive information selling fireworks, we will respond to that as well,” said Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich.
Stores like Phantom Fireworks in Monroeville noticed an uptick in sales due to the COVID-19 pandemic since most fireworks shows have been canceled.
“It seems like it’s a lot more people that are actually trying to do their backyard shows that have never done that before. They’ve gone to parades or wherever they’d watch their fireworks,” said the co-manager of that Phantom Fireworks in Monroeville, Michael Marcis.
We hear it too.#Fireworks complaints are surging — up 389 percent from last year.
That’s why we’ve formed a taskforce to target illegal fireworks.
— Pgh Public Safety (@PghPublicSafety) June 26, 2020
City officials are warning the public that all consumer fireworks “pose significant dangers to police and property.”
They also say fireworks, even those recently legalized, “can almost never be set off legally inside city limits.”
“City law prohibits the use of fireworks, even those that are legal, within 150 feet of any structure. Fireworks are also prohibited in all parks, any public space and on private property without consent of the landowner,” the city says.
In a news release, Hissrich says, “As a Pittsburgh native myself, I understand that fireworks are an important part of the way we celebrate our Independence Day. Unfortunately, as a result of the ongoing battle against the deadly coronavirus, all fireworks and public gatherings have been cancelled this year. Please remember that fireworks are a real fire hazard and can be very dangerous. I urge everyone to exercise caution this year and not use them.”
Hissrich said the city is also monitoring people shooting guns into the air, a problem that’s been happening nationwide. He said the Fireworks Taskforce will be up and running until after the Fourth of July.
Anyone caught violating the fireworks law could face a $100 fine and possible seizure of their fireworks.
There are several places still putting on fireworks shows for this year’s Fourth of July, click here for the growing list.