By BURTON SPEAKMAN
Fireworks sales, starting about a week before today’s holiday celebrations, were busy after a lackluster start to the season.
“It was a very slow start to the season,” said Bruce Zoldan, president of Phantom Fireworks. Youngstown-based Phantom Fireworks has more than 1,200 locations throughout the country.
Part of the issue this year is the Fourth of July being late in the week, so people are considering the weekend to be part of the holiday, he said.
Therefore, people delayed their purchases, Zoldan said. Starting June 28, sales for Phantom started to beat the same date of the previous year.
Over the last 20 years, there has been a trend of more people using fireworks. According to Phantom, use of the products have increased by 100 percent since 1994.
The expectation is that by Sunday, sales will be higher than 2012 figures, Zoldan said.
“In 2012 we had a really dry year in a lot of areas in the country, and a lot of places asked people not to set fireworks, which hurt sales,” he said. “We’re very optimistic that we’re looking at a record year.”
The American Pyrotechnics Association also is stating wetter weather throughout the nation should help increase fireworks sales.
“Many Americans had to forgo their fireworks fun last year as much of the country faced burn-ban restrictions, impacting fireworks use due to the severe drought,” according to an APA statement. “But this year, most of the nation is drought-free and consumers are eager to light ’em up and celebrate their patriotism.”
Phantom, after being linked to the Boston Marathon bombings, has not had to market its products as much this year, Zoldan said. The two bombers used explosives from fireworks to build their devices.
“This year the national media is coming to us,” he said.
Phantom, through its surveillance system, was able to provide video of the bombing suspects to law enforcement, he said. It’s unfortunate that these products can be used for bad purposes if someone is determined, he added.
“Most people have made the decision not to allow the situation to impact how they celebrate the holiday, which is by using fireworks,” Zoldan said.
Despite the negative publicity, fireworks now are safer to use than they were in the past, he said.
The M-80s and other items are illegal. Typically when there are problems now, it is because someone has misused the product, Zoldan said.
“With the liberalization of consumer fireworks laws and record-breaking backyard fireworks usage, the number of fireworks-related injuries and fires has dramatically declined,” said Julie L. Heckman, executive director of the APA.
The fireworks-related injury rate is 43 percent lower than it was in 2000, when the trend in relaxing consumer fireworks laws was first initiated. Additionally, data released by the U.S. Fire Administration’s National Fire Incident Reporting System indicates that since 2000, fireworks-related fires have declined by more than 50 percent and are among the lowest level in three decades.
Although nationally the trend has been to make fireworks laws more liberal, there still are those against the practice.
In 2012, 8,700 people were treated in emergency departments for firework-related injuries, according to Prevent Blindness Ohio, a group that seeks a ban on all fireworks. There were a total of four fireworks-related deaths.
Roughly 60 percent of fireworks injuries occur in a one-month period around the Fourth of July, and in 2012, fireworks resulted in 228 fires in Ohio and caused $130,000 in damage, according to the group.