I-TEAM: Fireworks sales are sky-high this year due to COVID-19

Published: Jul. 3, 2020 at 5:04 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Increasing COVID-19 concerns left cities on both sides of the river canceling their annual Fourth of July celebrations this weekend.

However, the pandemic isn't stopping families and neighbors from celebrating at home.

It’s a boom for fireworks dealers. Sales are sky-high, according to the American Pyrotechnics Association. Even the trade war hasn’t stopped the demand for fireworks from China.

Brent Kirkland says businesses is booming so much in the wake of coronavirus shutdowns, he sold out of his best sellers days ago.

Even the mayor of Wagener stopped by Kirkland's D and J fireworks business to see just how busy he's been.

"We have had some difficulties getting some of the more popular brands that we carry, but we have found other items to replace that," Kirkland said.

The distributors are even busy, Kirkland said.

"I know sales have picked up around the Myrtle Beach area -- sales are double what is normally this time of year," Kirkland said.

In fact, we found the U.S. imported nearly $100 million worth of fireworks from China from January through April with more than $32 million in shipments coming in April alone.

The American Pyrotechnics Association said they predict “an all-time high in backyard consumer firework sales and use as families prepare to celebrate Independence Day at home due to the pandemic.”

But with those increased sales come increasing complaints.

We analyzed 911 calls in Augusta-Richmond County and found a 217 percent increase in noise complaints about fireworks in June of this year compared to June 2019.

Call logs we obtained show people are setting off fireworks all day and night -- during the workweek, too -- from 11 p.m. to midnight and even into the overnight hours.

We found it’s the same trend nationally.

New York has logged 4,800 complaints in just two months. Pasadena, California saw a 400 percent increase in complaint calls this year. Boston, home of the tea party, saw a whopping 2300 percent increase in noise complaints about illegal fireworks this May.

Kirkland says, based on his sales, neighbors should brace for a loud weekend at home.

"The biggest things this year have been the cakes -- the heavier fireworks that and artillery shells," Kirkland said.

"What's that saying to you?"

"That's saying people are going to have their own fireworks show."

Big or small, the sound of freedom rings on.

Homegrown fireworks can also be downright dangerous. Pre-COVID, fireworks caused about 18,000 fires a year. Booming sales could result in a boom in injuries this year too.

Copyright 2020 WRDW/WAGT. All rights reserved.

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