At the July 28 meeting of the Lehigh Township Supervisors, residents raised the issue of constant fireworks being set off in the area. Many of the people who addressed the supervisors said the noise from fireworks is constant and annoying.
“Now, what we are hearing is fireworks all of the time. It is nice on a holiday when you are expecting them, but not every night. They go from 6 p.m. until midnight every single night,” a township resident said.
David Backenstoe, the township’s solicitor, attempted to clarify the existing ordinances and to explain what is legally possible when it comes to fireworks enforcement in Pennsylvania. He said that there are two categories of fireworks in the state, one being retail fireworks like bottle rockets and firecrackers and the other being larger, commercial-grade fireworks like you would see at a professional display. Only the commercial-grade category requires permits.
While there are still some local restrictions on the use of the retail fireworks, they are very difficult to enforce because of a law the PA legislature passed in 2017. Act 43, which passed in October of that year, repeals and replaces a prior law that had been in place since 1939 and legalizes the use of commercial fireworks for Pennsylvania residents. You still cannot use fireworks within 150 feet of an occupied structure or on private or public property without the owner’s consent. You can’t use them while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. However, there are no time constraints on when fireworks can be used in the law, although noise complaints can be investigated by police.
Board of Supervisors Chairperson, Cindy Miller, said that Lehigh Township does have an ordinance limiting hours people are supposed to be using fireworks.
“Currently, they should only use them until 10 p.m., except on national holidays like July 4 or New Year’s when they can go until 1 a.m.,” she said.
Township Supervisor Keith Hantz inquired if they could be made any stricter, but Backenstoe believed they already had one of the more restrictive ordinances in the area.
“Other townships want to see copies of Lehigh Township’s fireworks ordinance as an example for them. You limit times,” Backenstoe said.
There was a law passed by the PA Senate in June that allows larger municipalities in the state to have tighter control of consumer fireworks, but it is only applicable to areas like Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and seven other cities. According to Miller, who reached out to State Senator Mario Scavello (R-40), they didn’t have the votes to get the legislation passed state wide.
The Supervisors ultimately advocated for residents to contact their state officials about getting the fireworks laws changed.
“Hound your legislators,” Miller said.
The next Lehigh Township Supervisors meeting will be on August 11. Since Northampton County is currently in the green phase of Covid-19 mitigation, residents are welcome to attend in person at the municipal building. If you are uncomfortable or unable to attend in person, there is a call-in option available. You can get more information at the Lehigh Township website at www.lehightownship.com.