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Albany mayor, police chief warn city residents about the dangers of illegal fireworks ahead of July 4

Albany Fire Chief Joe Gregory warns about the dangers of illegal fireworks in Albany, June 30, 2022.
Aaron Shellow-Lavine
Albany Fire Chief Joe Gregory warns about the dangers of illegal fireworks in Albany, June 30, 2022.

City officials are reminding residents about the dangers and the illegality of fireworks and sparklers in Albany.

As Independence Day approaches, Mayor Kathy Sheehan warns that "fireworks cannot be used anywhere in the city of Albany." She says the explosives can disrupt households with pets and young children and can be very upsetting to people with PTSD.

"Think about that," said Sheehan. "Also when you set off fireworks, you create smoke, and it creates challenges for people who have asthma, who may have COPD and other diseases that impact their ability to breathe. So, again, we know that the use of fireworks ticked up in 2020. There was such a dramatic increase in the use of fireworks that our friends in advocates in Albany County went back to the state of play that had existed before. We had been allowed to sell sparkling devices in Albany County. And they went back and banned that."

Fire Chief Joe Gregory expanded on the mayor's warning about sparklers.

"Sparklers burn at approximately 2000 degrees," said Gregory. "So they are extremely dangerous. They're attractive to young children, but they are extremely dangerous. Burn injuries, we're talking about burn injuries, burn injuries account for about 44% of those treated in the emergency departments, as seen around the July 4 holiday. And the biggest thing, children ages 10 to 14 have the highest rate of burn injuries as a result of fireworks. So we're here to tell you if things go bad dial 911."

Chief Eric Hawkins says police response policy hasn't changed in the wake of a Juneteenth incident where officers were criticized for extinguishing fireworks during a gathering along Central Avenue.

"Our response is consistent," Hawkins said. "You know, we want to make sure that we're responding to our residents and visitors in the city, when they call about prohibited or, or criminal acts. And I expect my officers to you know, they have to use discretion, of course, and there's there are a number of different ways that they can handle a situation."

Sheehan says her office gets calls from people who expect the police to respond when somebody is lighting illegal fireworks in the middle of a busy street, or blocking access to a street. She adds officers can't simply drive past and allow illegal activity to continue.

"The flip side of that is what drives phone calls and complaints to this office, which is we expect the police to take action," Sheehan said. "If they don't, and something happens, like a child is hit by a car, or the illegal fireworks burned down somebody's house or business. You know, that's the rest of that story. And so it is our expectation that when the police respond, they do what they are trained to do to keep people safe."

Sheehan urges everyone to enjoy the annual professional fireworks show at 9:15 p.m. Monday at Empire State Plaza instead.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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