Jan. 29 — Nearly two dozen bills were introduced this term to crack down on illegal fireworks, with proposals to create task forces, increase fines and step up inspections of shipping containers.
Nearly two dozen bills were introduced this term to crack down on illegal fireworks, with proposals to create task forces, increase fines and step up inspections of shipping containers.
The legislature has considered similar bills before, but most have fizzled out as many in Hawaii cling to the argument that setting off fireworks of all kinds is a deeply rooted cultural tradition. On the other side of the argument are complaints about the health hazards of the lingering smoke from fireworks and the days of noise pollution before and after the fireworks-celebrated holiday.
Also of concern to public safety officials and others are the dozens of firework-related injuries — even fatalities — in recent years.
During the recent New Year’s Eve celebration, Honolulu’s EMS responded to 12 fireworks-related calls, the most serious of which involved the fatal injuries of Kenneth Meyers, 28, of Wahiawa, who was struck in the face by fireworks and died January 4 at Queen’s Medical Center.
His cause of death is still unknown, according to the Honolulu Medical Examiner’s Office.
During a Jan. 1 press briefing on nighttime firework victims, Dr. Jim Ireland, director of Honolulu Emergency Services, notes that illegal aerial fireworks are particularly dangerous.
“I was surprised by the number of people hit by aerial fireworks. We didn’t see that last year,” he said.
The ages of the injured ranged from a 12-year-old girl to a 55-year-old man, and incidents took place across the island. Cases included a person who suffered genital injuries from firecrackers in Kalihi; burns and shrapnel wounds when gasoline was used to create an improvised explosive device in Waianae; burns on hands and bleeding in Kaneohe; severe hand trauma in Waipahu; and vision loss when firecrackers exploded near a man’s face in Ewa Beach.
Previous firework-related deaths occurred in 2020, when a 34-year-old Kapaa man suffered fatal injuries when he set off fireworks that “malfunctioned” and exploded in his hand, and in 2017, when a 38-year-old Woman from the injuries sustained died a fireworks accident in Kapolei.
Here is a list of fireworks bills introduced during the current legislature: – and its companion, , would impose nationwide restrictions on consumer fireworks, except for permit holders for cultural events. The bills are part of a package of State Fire Council proposals—HB 686, HB 809, SB 37, HB 216, and SB 498 would each introduce stricter measures in Hawaiian ports to detect illegal fireworks through shipping container inspection programs. HB 686 would also implement X-ray scanning technology. — and his companion, , would increase fines related to certain fireworks violations. –, , and his companion, , would all form an illegal fireworks task force. HB 783 and HB 889 propose the creation of a task force within the prosecutor’s office. HB 1041 and SB 1339 are part of Gov. Josh Green’s legislative package proposing the creation of a task force within the “Department of Law Enforcement” to impose fines of up to $5,000 on homeowners, renters and property managers who intentionally and knowingly do so would or recklessly allow others to unlawfully use flying devices from their properties after 9:00 p.m. and before 9:00 a.m. — would require each county police agency to set up a fireworks enforcement unit firearms and firecrackers. – would decriminalize the possession and use of fireworks and impose fines instead. The bill also proposes a special fund for fireworks ownership that would provide money for county police departments and climate change mitigation efforts. He would spend $1 million from the state’s general fund to purchase drones to monitor the use of illegal fireworks. He would authorize county fire departments to inspect warehouses, piers, cargo, baggage and the personal effects of arriving ship passengers for illegal fireworks. In addition, importers of fireworks would have to submit written declarations to the district fire departments. The state Department of Transportation would need to install fireworks scanning equipment at every state airport and commercial port.