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Wilkes-Barre Fire Chief presents fireworks ordinance to manage effects of new state law

Wilkes-Barre City Fire Chief proposes fireworks ordinance

WILKES-BARRE (WOLF) -- Many Pennsylvanians were excited to learn the state passed a law - Act 43 - allowing the legal purchase of consumer-grade fireworks.

Wilkes-Barre City Fire Chief Jay Delaney was not one of them.

"It sounded like a war zone," he said, describing his neighborhood on the Fourth of July.

He said his department's holiday was marred by the chaos outside their doors.

"The amount of smoke in our neighborhoods on the Fourth of July was just unbearable, and we heard it from our residents. Our residents were not happy with it."

Tuesday he proposed an ordinance, several months in the works, to city council.

It aims to more strictly enforcing the new state law, which requires 150 feet of distance from an occupied structure to shoot off fireworks.

He - and other firefighters - opposed the law long before it passed.

"If you're going to light something in your backyard, you have no idea where it's going to go. People have pets, your neighbors might have pets," said Chief Delaney.

He also wants to ban their use on all city streets, sidewalks, property, and parks.

Chief Delaney said Wilkes-Barre is far from the only fire department in the state who is impacted.

"I'm president of the Pennsylvania Career Fire Chiefs Association. I talk with fire chiefs from all across the state, and what happened in Wilkes-Barre happened in Scranton, happened in Easton, happened in Williamsport, it was just bad everywhere," he said.

The Chief says the law ultimately comes down to municipal coverage - local fire, police and EMS - so they're hoping to get some funding to get the job one.

After an initial proposal, City Councilwoman Beth Gilbert has just one concern: enforcement.

"On the Fourth of July I know our police and fire were really stretched thin with all the calls that we were getting regarding fireworks," she said.

Chief Delaney says they'd like to get some conversation going with lawmakers to review the fireworks law and its effects, not ruling out the possibility of changing the law itself.

"We want to build something that's going to make Wilkes-Barre as safe as it can be," he said.

There will be a city council meeting Thursday evening that allows for public comment.

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