What you need to know about backyard fireworks to stay safe, legal for July 4th on the Big Island
July 4, 2023, 1:00 AM HST
Fireworks definitely add awe to any backyard Fourth of July celebration, but “oooo” and “aaah” can quickly become “ow!” and “argh!” — or worse — if they’re not handled responsibly. After all, the word “fire” is in the name.
Safety is key whenever the explosive party supplies are around. The Hawai‘i Fire Department is offering advice to prevent fires and injuries caused by fireworks. It also is reminding the public about the rules governing them.
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, 2022, while he was constructing homemade fireworks at a residence in Fern Forest.
A man in his 40s was injured on New Year’s Eve 2017 in an accident in Hilo involving illegal aerial fireworks. His right index finger was amputated when the fireworks exploded while he was holding them.
Property damage is another concern. Battalion Chief Palani Kurashige with the Hawai’i Fire Department’s Fire Prevention Branch said mishandling fireworks can lead to structure and brush fires. Kurashige added that it seems like some people think they just get a pass on responsibility, throwing fireworks at cars or in dumpsters as a prank or making other bad choices.
Whether small or large, fires cause damage and can lead to injury or worse. They also cost Hawai‘i County a lot of money because of the manpower, equipment and fuel needed to battle them. The largest blazes can take hours and sometimes days to extinguish.
Kurashige offered three best practices to make sure backyard enthusiasts and those watching stay safe:
- Make sure keiki are supervised when they are around or handling fireworks
- Don’t smoke around fireworks
- Don’t light fireworks off with gasoline or other accelerants
Here’s what you need to know about celebrating responsibly with fireworks.
Where do you buy permits?
Fireworks permits, which are required for “red paper” string firecrackers, are available for purchase through 8 p.m. on July 4 and can be obtained exclusively from two designated locations on the Big Island:
- TNT Fireworks tent in the Safeway parking lot at 381 E. Makaala St. in Hilo.
- TNT Fireworks tent in the Walmart parking lot at 75-1015 Henry St. in Kailua-Kona.
Each permit costs $25 and allows the holder to purchase up to 5,000 individual firecrackers. You must be 18 or older to buy a permit and they are non-transferable and non-refundable.
Novelties and paperless firecrackers do not require permits.
When can you fire them off?
People with valid permits can set off firecrackers and consumer fireworks during the approved hours of 1 to 9 p.m. on July 4.
Are aerial fireworks illegal?
Yes. In Hawai‘i, buying, selling, possessing or setting off any aerial luminary device, including sky lanterns and Hawai‘i lanterns, is illegal. Those in possession of such devices are encouraged to contact Hawai‘i Fire Department Fireworks Auditor Shonne Sasaki at 808-323-4760 for proper disposal with amnesty.
What other rules are there for fireworks?
- Remove the contents from any fireworks.
- Throw fireworks from a vehicle.
- Set off fireworks outside the approved time period
- Set off fireworks within 1,000 feet of hospitals, nursing homes, homes for the elderly, animal hospitals, schools, highways, parks or churches during service times.
- Sell or give fireworks to minors.
- Those underage cannot possess fireworks or set off or ignite them without adult supervision.
What can you do to prevent fires and injuries?
Fire Department officials offer these additional tips to celebrate safely:
- Ensure a water hose is connected to a water source or have a fire extinguisher readily available and wet down the surrounding brush before setting off fireworks.
- Set off fireworks in a safe area away from dry grass, buildings, vehicles and flammable materials.
- Dispose of used fireworks properly by soaking them in water before disposal.
The Hawai‘i Fire Department will conduct a collection of unused and unwanted fireworks after the July 4th holiday. People interested in disposing of fireworks can contact the fireworks auditor for information about pick-up and drop-off locations.
For more information about purchasing fireworks permits, safe use of fireworks or fireworks disposal, contact Hawai‘i Fire Department Fireworks Auditor Shonne at 808-323-4760.