Hawai'i State News

Big Island backyard fireworks are popular, but be safe while ringing in 2023

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Thousands of people have descended upon Big Island fireworks vendors this week in preparation for New Year’s Eve celebrations.

Vendors are available around the Big Island for all of your New Year’s Eve fireworks needs. File photo by Tiffany DeMasters/Big Island Now.

Pikake Kahele, manager at J. Hara Store in Volcano, estimates more than 3,000 fireworks customers have come to the store since fireworks and fireworks permits went on sale Monday on the Big Island.

“We’re always busy,” Kahele said.

In Hilo, hundreds of customers have patronized each of the three Phantom Fireworks locations this week. The Big Island manager Seth Fukushima said numbers were on the uptrend heading into Saturday, the last day to purchase fireworks and permits.

“I recommend people come down as soon as possible and not wait till the last minute if they want fireworks,” Fukushima said.

So while a quick internet search Friday afternoon turned up just one organized fireworks show on the Big Island — at Mauna Lani resort on the Kohala Coast — backyard displays will again light up Hawaiʻi Island to say goodbye to 2022 and ring in 2023.


Fireworks are entertaining, but they also can be dangerous.

Hawai’i Fire Department Deputy Fire Chief Eric Moller reported after New Year’s Eve 2021 that fortunately there were no major fires or injuries on the Big Island related to fireworks, there are plenty of examples of mishaps and injuries from the past few years throughout the state.

A man in his 40s was injured on New Year’s Eve 2017 in an aerial fireworks accident in Hilo. The man was transported to Hilo Medical Center after his right index finger was amputated when the aerial-type fireworks, which are prohibited in Hawai‘i unless you have the proper permits, exploded while he was holding them.

Fireworks photo courtesy of the Hawai‘i Police Department.

A 34-year-old Kaua‘i man was killed on New Year’s Eve 2020 while attempting to light a firework that apparently malfunctioned and exploded in his hand. A 22-year­­­­­-old man in Ewa Beach on O‘ahu sustained injuries to one of his hands, his chest and his face after an aerial firework went awry on New Year’s Eve 2021. He was transported to a trauma facility in serious condition.

On O‘ahu, from 7 p.m. Dec. 31, 2021, to 7 a.m. Jan. 1, 2022, emergency medical services personnel treated more than 11 people, including one child, for serious or critical fireworks-related injuries. Some patients lost fingers and hand parts while holding fireworks and others were struck in the face, neck and chest with firework projectiles and shrapnel.


The Honolulu Fire Department also reported it treated six people with fireworks-related injuries from 8 a.m. Dec. 31, 2021, to 8 a.m. Jan. 1, 2022. Firefighters also responded to two structure fires and three rubbish fires on New Year’s Eve 2021.

And while not New Year’s Eve related, a 35-year-old Puna man was critically wounded in his abdomen and later died from injuries he sustained in an early morning explosion May 28 this year while he was constructing homemade fireworks at a residence in Fern Forest.

To avoid injury and the loss of life or property while saying farewell to auld lang syne, the good times, of 2022 and looking forward to the promise that is 2023, safety is paramount.

Kahele at J. Hara Store said a little common sense can go a long way. The store’s fireworks tent also sells equipment to help keep you safe, such as safety glasses: “We push a lot of that stuff,” she said.

Phantom Fireworks’ Fukushima said one of the keys to staying safe while firing off fireworks is simply being aware.


“You want to always make sure you’re in a clear area with enough space, away from people, with enough distance to enjoy the show,” he said. “Be aware of your surroundings and the proximity of the fireworks of where your show is going to be held.”

An assortment of fireworks is seen earlier this week at a vendor tent in West Hawai‘i. File photo by Tiffany DeMasters/Big Island Now.

Fukushima also recommends that everyone who plans to celebrate with fireworks has a fire extinguisher nearby in case of an emergency. The Hawai‘i Fire Department agrees, saying having a fire extinguisher and/or water hose ready to use in the event of an unplanned or unexpected fire is the most important safety tip to exercise.

“Supervise children when using fireworks; do not use illegal aerial devices, as they can malfunction and cause serious injuries and property damage,” said Michael Matsui, fireworks auditor for the Fire Department.

He added that drinking alcohol and fireworks also does not mix.

The department also offered these fireworks safety tips:

  • Use extreme care when setting off fireworks. Even the smallest fireworks can cause severe injuries.
  • Set off fireworks in an area well away from dry grass or flammable materials.
  • Be sure fireworks are completely extinguished before disposing of them.

It’s also not just people who can have bad experiences with fireworks. Pets can be scared and run away because of the explosive nature of New Year’s Eve festivities. If they run into a road or get lost because of their panic, even worse consequences can happen.

The Hawai‘i Police Department, which manages Hawai‘i County’s animal control services, provided several tips to keep pets safe:

  • Keep your pet secured inside. Pets tied up outside can panic because of the loud noise and might break their tie-out or jump over a fence to escape the commotion.
  • Make sure your pet is microchipped to help increase the chances of reunification. Go to Found.org to register your pet’s microchip.
  • Thunder shirts, favorite treats and crating are all ways to help keep your pet calm during the fireworks. Check with your veterinarian about anxiety medications for your dog.
  • Check your yard for fireworks debris before allowing pets to explore the area.

Fukushima said the whole point of New Year’s Eve fireworks displays is to bring family, friends and people you haven’t seen in awhile together in celebration. The pretty colors are a perk.

So whether you’re in your own backyard or helping someone at their place as a part of what is sure to again be a New Year’s Eve fireworks bonanza on the Big Island, make it your first resolution of 2023 to play it safe by following the law and heeding the advice of public safety officials.

Nathan Christophel
Nathan Christophel is a full-time reporter with Pacific Media Group. He has more than 25 years of experience in journalism as a reporter, copy editor and page designer. He previously worked at the Hawaii Tribune-Herald in Hilo. Nathan can be reached at [email protected]
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