YORK, Pa. (WHTM) — York City Council is joining a growing chorus of municipal leaders in calling for state lawmakers to address a recent uptick in illegal fireworks being used within city limits.
“It was the worst I had ever seen in my 50 years of life,” said York City Councilman, Lou Rivera, describing the July 4th holiday and the weeks leading up to it.
It’s a stark reality for Rivera, who thinks the legalization of consumer-grade fireworks in 2017 should’ve never happened.
“[It] created major problems not only for our fire and police departments, but for our neighbors, family, and friends,” Rivera said. “We’ve had people, pets, people who suffer from PTSD affected, our older residents. I’m not a party pooper and I like for people to have fun especially during the holidays, but this took it to the next level and it was unfortunate.”
Tuesday, Council issued a notice reminding residents of the law: no fireworks can be set off from or toward a car or building, no drug or alcohol use is allowed while using fireworks, and — the big one — no fireworks are allowed to be set off within 150 feet of an occupied structure.
On Saturday July 4 alone, in York, illegal fireworks caused 12 fires, according to the city’s fire department.
Rivera said the state’s financial gains from now offering fireworks for sale aren’t worth the destruction – or disruption.
“Do you balance out the millions of dollars we’re making with the sale of fireworks or do people’s lives and people’s property become more of a priority?” he asked.
Council has also sent a letter to state legislators, pleading for help.
Mayor Michael Helfrich said earlier this week that he feels powerless in this fight.
“We do not have the manpower, we weren’t given any extra money from Harrisburg to deal with this stuff,” Helfrich said. “I can’t put on 10 more cops to deal with fireworks, we can’t afford to do it.”
Hampden Township in Cumberland County has also had such a problem, that police officers in plain clothes and in uniforms will now be assigned to solely respond to firework calls. They’ll be doing targeted enforcement to identify trouble spots and determine who is continually breaking the law. Officers will be enforcing the law as well as issuing fines.