As the U.S gears up for the Fourth of July weekend, people across the country are facing concerns over wildfires, pandemics and the meaning behind impromptu firework firings in an unprecedented celebration of the national holiday.
Saturday will be unlike any other Independence Day in recent memory. From Atlanta to S. Diego, hundreds of firework shows have been canceled as officials restrict large gatherings during the coronavirus pandemic, especially as infections surge across the US.
With fewer professional celebrations, many Americans are bound to shoot off fireworks in their back yards and at block parties.
And they already are: Sales have been booming. Some public safety officials say consumer fireworks in more hands means greater danger of injuries and wildfires in parts of the country experiencing dry, scorching weather.
“The general public is buying more than ever before,” said Steve Houser, president of the National Fireworks Association.
While it is not clear exactly what is driving people to shops, some sellers think fireworks are a diversion for people who have been stuck at home during the pandemic.
“We’re seeing new customers … who usually don’t come to the fireworks tents,” said Robert Fletcher of Desert Sky Fireworks, which has locations across Arizona.
Cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco have received more complaints of illegal fireworks this summer than in previous years.
While most states allow at least some types of consumer fireworks, many cities prohibit them, even non-explosive sparklers. But they acknowledge it is difficult to stop people from buying them just outside city limits where they are legal.
New York City has seen weeks of fireworks lit throughout the city to the ire of some residents.
Residents of certain neighbourhoods say the impromptu firing of pyrotechnics, which sometimes last to the early morning, makes their homes feel like “war zones”.