At least one group of retailers is doing a booming business during the COVID-19 pandemic — fireworks sellers.
Sellers of consumer-grade fireworks are reporting brisk sales ahead of this weekend’s Independence Day holiday. One factor they cite for the increased sales is the fact the Fourth of July falls on a Saturday this year. But the pandemic seems partly responsible.
One retailer said his customers are tired of all the bad news and are ready to celebrate. Other customers are compensating for the lack of professional fireworks shows.
Julie Heckman, the executive director of the American Pyrotechnics Association, estimates that 80% to 85% of professional fireworks shows have been canceled nationwide, which has contributed to a nationwide surge in fireworks sales to individuals.
Among those shows that have been canceled is Decatur’s Spirit of America Festival.
Larry Farnsworth, spokesman for the National Fireworks Association, said at least one of his members experienced an uptick in sales starting with Memorial Day.
“People have been cooped in, they want a reason to celebrate,” Farnsworth said. “Consumer fireworks, you can come out, you can shoot them off the end of your driveway, your neighbors can come out and watch. It kind of brings you together in the community, and gives you a sense of normalcy.”
But shooting those fireworks off inside the limits of an incorporated municipality can get you into trouble. Fireworks are prohibited within the city limits of Decatur, as they are in most Alabama cities. The Decatur Police Department said in a press release that ordinances pertaining to fireworks use and possession will be strictly enforced over the July 4 holiday.
Not that people are waiting until the Fourth of July to set off their private arsenals.
Jeanie Pharis, the director of Morgan County 911, said 911 has already received more pre-Independence Day calls complaining about fireworks than it did during the same period last year.
In other parts of the country, people shooting off fireworks in big cities well ahead of Independence Day have led to speculation about what is going on.
“Theories range from coordinated efforts to blame those protesting police brutality to bored people blowing off steam following coronavirus lockdowns,” The Associated Press reported last week.
Whatever the reason for the increased fireworks sales and use, there is reason for caution. Rules about shooting off fireworks inside the city limits are there for a reason: a stray firework can be a fire hazard, and the home you accidentally burn down might not be your own.
Fireworks also scare pets, and have been responsible for more than one terrified dog and cat running off and getting lost. But most importantly, fireworks can cause serious injuries if used recklessly. People — children included — have lost fingers, hands and eyes playing with fireworks without proper supervision or without taking safety precautions.
If you plan to shoot off fireworks this weekend, do so only where allowed, and be sure to follow the safety rules.