Philly residents struggle with nuisance of amateur fireworks

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Complaints of fireworks are being reported across the city, and for many Philadelphians, it's affecting their quality of life.

Jean Gajary of Mt. Airy says summer is a difficult time of year for her and her dog, as she hears the explosion of amateur fireworks from Memorial Day until the end of August. This year, however, seems to be particularly difficult.

"It has been a growing problem since they were made legal in the state in 2017," she said. "At that time, they started selling them in the city, even though they were illegal to use in the city."

Philadelphia Managing Director Brian Abernathy confirmed the city was aware of the issue.

"There have been a number of complaints around explosions and fireworks or possibly something else. I think we are trying to think of the best way to respond to that," he said.

Gajary decided to take action, and started a task force on her neighborhood listserv to deal with the problem. In doing so, she discovered this was a problem across many neighborhoods. 

"They need to be illegal not just to be used but to be sold," she asserted.

About 50 people have joined so far, Gajary said. Some of them told her about how they had to rent a hotel or stay at a friend's house just to get a good night's sleep.

"And let's remember, they're making these choices in the middle of a pandemic because they were that desperate," she continued.

Abernathy said there are already restrictions on lighting fireworks within 150 feet of a residential dwelling.

"I would remind everyone that fireworks in the city are illegal to light off and care is needed as we move forward," he declared.

But Gajary said that hasn't stopped the problem. In fact, she said it's getting worse.

"What these kids do is they set them off and then they run off — and also, (the police) can't respond without an address," she explained. "I've spent countless nights trying to locate the address; but even so, they don't catch anybody and is it really at this time a good time to have police chasing kids after this with everything going on?"

She added if nothing changes, she and others will have some decisions to make.

"These are people, like myself, who are thinking, 'I have to leave the city if this continues,'" she admitted. "If you can't sleep at night for eight weeks of the year, how do you live like that?"

Residents can email Gajary to join her fireworks task force, to get on a committee to help change the law.