Fireworks complaints by area residents increase as Fourth of July heats up

2013-06-30T18:00:00Z 2013-07-01T23:11:06Z Fireworks complaints by area residents increase as Fourth of July heats upDeborah Laverty deborah.laverty@nwi.com, (219) 762-1397, ext. 2223 nwitimes.com

Hammond Police Chief Brian Miller refers to them as the "13 days of hell."

They are the days the state allows residents to shoot off consumer fireworks.

"The calls from residents about fireworks complaints start the second week of June and continue until about two weeks after the Fourth of July. We've had garages and house fires started because of fireworks," Miller said.

Although state law allows for fines up to $2,500 for noncompliance, it's an issue that's extremely difficult to enforce given the number of calls the department receives, Miller said.

"I'm no big fan of fireworks. I go to crime watches throughout the city and residents complain incessantly. We can't go out on every call especially the Fourth of July because the volume of calls is too high. We do our best," Miller said.

The state ordinance, which most communities follow, says consumer fireworks are to be used only from 5 p.m. to two hours after sunset June 29 through July 9; from 10 a.m. to midnight July 4, and from 10 a.m. to 1 a.m. Dec. 31 and Jan. 1.

In Illinois, any consumer firework distributor, company, association, group or retailer, must be registered and licensed with the Office of the State Fire Marshal, said Milly Santiago, spokeswoman for the office. In Illinois it is illegal to possess, purchase or use consumer fireworks without a consumer display permit obtained from local authorities. Anyone caught with controlled consumer fireworks in Illinois could be subject to arrest if the proper consumer display permit is not posted. The only legal consumer approved fireworks in Illinois are novelty items such as sparklers, snakes, smoke bombs. Any other fireworks need a permit.

Hobart Police Chief Rick Zormier agrees that fireworks complaints have picked up in Hobart since mid-June.

"The number of injuries and emergency room visits due to fireworks always start to climb in the month of June. Keep them legal, in the hand or supervision of responsible adults, and limit them to appropriate locations. All of these things are common sense," Zormier said.

Merrillville Police Chief Joseph Petruch said his department does its best enforcing the law during the Fourth of July holiday despite the high volume of calls received from residents.

"If we get a call from a resident, those breaking the law will be cited. It's a law the state passed but didn't allow any additional funding for police," Petruch said.

East Chicago Police Chief Mark Becker said fireworks complaint calls have already started up there and police try and catch the culprits.

"Normally, by the time police get to the location, those shooting off the fireworks are long gone. It's like chasing shadows in the dark," Becker said.

Crown Point Assistant Police Chief James Janda said his department always receives numerous calls, including fireworks complaints, around the Fourth of July holiday.

"We have to prioritize our calls and we will respond if we're not busy," Janda said.

Portage Police Chief Troy Williams, who posted guidelines on his social media account, said it's all about common sense and being respectful of neighbors.

"It's a time to celebrate the independence of our country and we want residents to be able to do so within reason. ... We'll do the best we can given our staff, which is at minimum this time of year," Williams said.

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