As Massachusetts gears up for holiday celebrations, such as Juneteenth and July 4, state public safety officials are urging members of the public to leave fireworks to the experts.
“People are injured and property is lost to illegal fireworks every single year in Massachusetts,” said State Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey in a joint statement last week with State Police and the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security. “Many cities and towns will have professional fireworks displays this year, so play it safe and leave fireworks to the professionals.”
State Police Colonel Christopher S. Mason said in the statement that it is illegal to possess, use, or sell fireworks in Massachusetts without being properly certified and licensed.
“Massachusetts law requires the confiscation of any illegal fireworks we encounter, even if legally purchased elsewhere,” said Mason. “State Police and our local partners will be conducting targeted enforcement efforts to intercept illegal fireworks coming into the state and we will seize any that we find in routine traffic stops.”
On Thursday, officials separately announced charges against a Rowley man, after a mortar shell firework accidentally exploded inside an apartment building last week, startling residents with the loud noise and causing damage to nearby rooms.
Rowley fire and police as well as State Police’s fire and explosion investigation unit assigned to the state fire marshal’s office responded to the area of 870 Haverhill St. last Friday “following an alarm activation,” according to a statement from the Department of Fire Services.
“Though there was no fire at the scene, witnesses reported hearing the sound of an explosion and a heavy smoke condition,” officials said in the statement.
The man who allegedly ignited the firework will be summonsed to Newburyport District Court at a later date on a charge of possessing and using illegal fireworks in connection with the incident, officials said.
Members of the State Police bomb squad also recovered and seized additional live shells, officials said.
Between 2012 and 2021, public safety officials said, there were more than 900 fires related to illegal fireworks in Massachusetts, causing 43 fire service injuries and $2.1 million in damage. Illegal fireworks also caused 31 severe burn injuries, which extended to 5 percent or more of the victims’ bodies, officials said.
State Police seized more than 47,000 units of illegal fireworks last year and issued 65 criminal summonses. Efforts to seize illegal fireworks “will resume this summer,” officials said.
Fireworks fires peaked during the first COVID-19 summer, the summer of 2020, with 120 incidents reported to the state’s fire incident reporting system, officials said. In 2021, 40 incidents were reported, a 67 percent decrease, “as many cities and towns resumed their public fireworks displays and police departments increased enforcement,” officials said.
Officials also cautioned against the use of sparklers which are “especially unsafe around children” and burn at a temperature of over 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit, hotter than the melting point of glass and aluminum.
Other local communities have also cracked down on illegal fireworks. Brockton, for example, formed a joint task force last month specifically in response to illegal fireworks. The task force has created a hotline for residents to submit anonymous tips at 508-941-0244.