Illegal fireworks cause major damage in Louisville, chief says
Okolona Fire Chief Mike Allendorf
LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - With fireworks sales booming ahead of the Fourth of July, a Metro Louisville fire chief warned of further damage caused by illegal fireworks.
The banned varieties, which include firecrackers and bottle rockets, caused at least $250,000 in property damage across Jefferson County in 2013, Okolona Fire Chief Mike Allendorf said.
"The problem is, you shoot it straight up and it's not going to land in your own yard, it's going to land a couple neighbors down," Allendorf said.
Allendorf said it isn't common to catch people selling illegal fireworks in Jefferson County, although a complaint led to one bust Thursday afternoon at the corner of Poplar Level Road and East Indian Trail.
Candice, the woman running the fireworks stand, wouldn't give WAVE 3 News her last name or the last name of her boss, Dave. She said she had to drive the illegal fireworks to Bullitt County, where they are legal, after Okolona Fire officials made the discovery.
"I did know," Candice said, when asked whether she knew the fireworks were illegal. "But that's where your money is."
Last year, illegal fireworks caused damage to a construction site at Lassiter Elementary School in Fairdale. An bottle rocket illegally set from a nearby apartment complex even damaged Allendorf's garden, he said.
"The clock's ticking. We're going to be adding up the damage (this year)," he said.
Another stand on Preston Highway near Blue Lick Road in Okolona wasn't selling any illegal fireworks when WAVE 3 News drove up.
"I'd say 75 percent of people coming up want firecrackers and bottle rockets and that type of stuff," said Olivia Bailey, who was managing the stand. "But we can't sell them here."
Candice, the woman busted for selling illegal fireworks, said she would remain open with less-profitable "kiddie fireworks" for sale. She questioned why the larger fireworks were legal in other Kentucky and Indiana counties but not in Louisville.
"What's the difference?" she said. "I don't know how many tents in Jefferson County have them, but I know this tent does not have them."
People who light off illegal fireworks that cause damage can face wanton endangerment or arson charges, Allendorf said.
Allendorf said his crews responded to 13 fires on the Fourth of July last year, mostly because of fireworks that had been improperly thrown away in dumpsters. With legal fireworks, he suggested:
- Lighting them off on a hard, level surface - Having a garden hose nearby