What’s legal, what’s not: News 8 takes the fireworks ‘white tent tour’

Local News

What should be sold in this region are ground-based legal sparklers

WEBSTER, N.Y. (WROC) — For weeks now, the Rochester region has been hearing more fireworks going off after sunset than usual.

If you’re looking for those devices that soar through the air, go boom and light up the sky, you won’t find them at the white fireworks tents News 8 visited. And with good reason.

“We can’t sell anything legally that launches and explodes,” says Kevin Shoemaker of TNT Fireworks in Webster.

MORE | Hearing more fireworks this year in Rochester? You’re not alone

Flaming projectiles are illegal in New York, and many of the “fireworks” tents you see this time of year are selling legal, ground-based sparklers (although laws in New York City are different). “As New York State calls them, they’re sparkling devices, technically,” says Shoemaker.

And they come in a large variety, but they all do mostly the same thing. “And you lay them on the ground and they launch out sparks, noise, colors,” he says.

Shoemaker adds these are not what many residents have been living with in recent weeks across the region, with large bangs, booms and aerial explosions. While sparklers can make noise, Shoemaker says they’re not nearly as loud as the illegal goods, likely coming from places like Pennsylvania and Ohio.

“One way to tell if they’re legal or not, is if they say ’emits showers of sparks,'” says Jason Guck of Barely Legal Fireworks in Ontario and Rochester.

MORE | RPD, RFD Chiefs on uptick of fireworks: Annoying, dangerous, and potentially criminal

Guck and his family rely solely on money generated from the sale of these devices. He says those running illegal fireworks from places like Pennsylvania, could close him down. 

“I heard that Monroe County is considering reinforcing the ban on even this type of firework, the sparking devices,” he adds.

Guck says what every white tent in New York should be selling are safe and state-approved. “Purchase the legal stuff, the safe family-fun stuff that’s not going to drive your neighbors bonkers,” he says.

News 8 did visit other white fireworks tents, which were selling the legal goods. Guck says if anyone in New York is selling illegal, exploding projectiles, to alert the authorities.

The Rochester Police Department issued this statement on fireworks Friday in preparation for Independence Day:

“As the 4th of July holiday weekend unfolds, the Rochester Police Department would like to wish everyone a safe and fun 4th of July. The Rochester Police Department requests that when illegal fireworks are heard or seen to call 911. The dangers of using illegal fireworks are many. Unlicensed, untrained users of fireworks run the risk of bodily injury to themselves or others, hearing loss, and ground or structure fires, just to name a few. Fireworks being set off in neighborhoods effect the quality of life for all residents. It is annoying and alarming to hear loud booms that often sound like gunshots. We ask that you respect your neighbors. When calling 911, it is important to be specific on when the illegal fireworks are originating. An actual address is needed for us to take any enforcement. Without a specific location, the police department cannot properly address the annoyance or dangerous condition created by illegal fireworks. Enforcement for the possession and use of illegal fireworks range from the issuance of a Municipal Code violation ticket for noise violations to criminal charges. The Rochester Police Department will be working in collaboration with area law enforcement partners throughout the holiday weekend to ensure safe roads for our community. We encourage individuals to celebrate responsibly. Please do not drink and drive. Please utilize a designated driver or any ride share services. If you see something, say something; call 911 so we can do something.”

Rochester Police Department

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