New fireworks law set to go into effect Wednesday

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A state law legalizing the sale of additional fireworks takes effect Wednesday, and it has Charleston’s fire captain concerned.

The bill, which unanimously passed the Senate and House of Delegates, aims to raise money for veterans and volunteer fire departments, but Mike Shank said some fireworks should be controlled by professionals.

“Now the legalization of what we call 1.3 fireworks are on the same level as what we put out at (Appalachian) Power Park on fireworks nights,” Shank said. “A lot of these, you have to get right up on them with some type of match or ignition device, light them and try to get out of the way before it goes off.”

A 12 percent fireworks safety fee will be levied onto each sale, with proceeds benefiting the veterans facility and fire departments. Yet Shank isn’t sure the revenue is worth the dangers posed by allowing the public to handle stronger fireworks.

“The explosions are enough to kill someone worst case, or maim someone for life, or burn down somebody’s house. It’s just a dangerous thing we’ve gotten ourselves into,” said Shank. “There are time when these things misfire—it’s happened at Power Park. That’s typically when someone’s going to get hurt.”

Fireworks violations could be more difficult to enforce, warned Shanks, who foresees additional duties for the city’s police department.

“Definitely it would be complaint-driven. We would have to respond, and then we’d have to do an investigation that would be time consuming,” he said.

The State Fire Marshal’s office has released a list of tips and guidelines for fireworks safety under the new law.

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