Fireworks bringing in big bucks for Pa. but fire officials ask, ‘at what cost?’

Pennsylvania Politics

(WHTM) — Celebrations in Pennsylvania got a lot brighter in 2017. Legalized fireworks have produced thrills and chills and are helping the state pay the bills.

An 18% fireworks tax sent nearly half a million dollars to the treasury that first year. And, pardon the pun, has exploded since. In the first five months of this year, the state collected more than $14.4 million. That is worth some oohs and aahs, but there are also some boos.

“They have turned this city, and others, into a war zone. I don’t know what they were thinking,” Duane Trautman, Lebanon fire commissioner, said.

A major fire, that may have been caused by fireworks, took place in Lebanon. A deadly fire in York County was also the result of fireworks.

“What’s going on? What you say is worth the tax money, you’ve made my job a lot busier,” Trautman said to the 29 Senators and 102 Representatives that voted yes, plus the Governor who signed it.

Senator Lisa Baker (R), chair of the judiciary committee, was one of the 29 who voted yes.

“I think we need to be open to looking at and hearing from the experts what are we seeing on the ground. Are there things we can do to modify it or improve what we have currently?” Baker said.

But Senator Gene Yaw, who wrote the fireworks law does not seem so open.

“We’re not going to repeal it, get over it,” Yaw said.

Plus, he blamed local officials for not enforcing it.

“They want to pass the buck. It’s as simple as that,” Yaw said.

However, enforcement is not so simple. The skies above Harrisburg lit up Sunday night. The fireworks were legal for residents to buy, but not to set off within 150 feet of a structure, as these no doubt were.

“If 10 cars go by a state police trooper going 90 on I-81 he’s gonna get one of them and the rest of them go and that’s what we’re dealing with here,” Trautman said.

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