47 Licenses Issued in Western New York For Fireworks

1:47 PM, Jul 5, 2013   |    comments
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BUFFALO - About five hours before his Independence Day fireworks show at the Outer Harbor, Matt Shaw cautions not to get too close to the live fireworks lined up along the grass.

"Static electricity," he says, citing the source of a potential accident. "You'll get killed."

Shaw knows fireworks. After all, he owns Skylighters of New York, which conducted 20 shows across Western New York on Thursday.

"Biggest day of the year," he said. "It starts at 4:30 in the morning, getting the trucks and trailers out."

All shows must have a licensed pyrotechnic operator on site, according to state law. Except here's the interesting thing: There are only 47 pyrotechnic certifications issued in the Western New York region, according to the state's Department of Labor. For everybody else, fireworks are illegal in this state.

New York is one of four states in the country with a ban on consumer fireworks, along with New Jersey, Massachussetts and Delaware. Don Creagan, the president of the Pyrotechnics Guild International nonprofit organization, wants to change that-- even though he lives in Omaha, Neb.

"We encourage those states to open up their interests a little more," Creagan said, "and see what they're missing."

Creagan said states with fireworks bans lose out on sales tax revenue, since people travel to other states to buy their fireworks for the Fourth of July.

"It's illegal and they shouldn't be doing it," Cregan said, "But they will have people shooting fireworks and the states that sell them will get the revenue. That's what it comes down to."

The Department of Labor reports 387 licensed pyrotechnic operators in the entire state of New York. Coincidentally, New York City has the same amount of certificates (47) as Western New York. Long Island leads the way with 64.

But Matt Shaw doesn't need to worry.

He has his permit.

"The way we set up for the spectators, we will keep people safe," Shaw said.

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