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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Sales of fireworks permits take tumble

StoryChat: Comment on this story

By Will Hoover
Advertiser Staff Writer

Seventeen-year-old Mark Palting of Makakilo and his sister, Donna, 21, stock up on fireworks at Don Quijote in Waipahu.

Photos by REBECCA BREYER | The Honolulu Advertiser

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FIREWORKS PERMITS

Permits: $25 each, for purchase of up to 5,000 firecrackers

Minimum age: 18 years

Enforcing authority: County fire departments

O'ahu permits: All satellite city halls; Neighbor Islands (contact county fire departments for information)

The sale of fireworks in Honolulu ends at midnight Sunday. In Honolulu, multiple permits may be purchased only at satellite city halls. Fireworks may be set off from 9 p.m. Sunday to 1 a.m. Monday.

Prohibited: Aerial fireworks such as bottle rockets, sky rockets, missile-type rockets, helicopters, torpedoes, Roman candles, flying pigs, aerial shells, mines and jumping jacks, which move about the ground farther than inside a circle with a radius of 12 feet as measured from the point where the item was placed and ignited.

Source: Honolulu Fire Department

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Paperless fireworks are all the rage because there's no rubbish to clean up - and they don't require a $25 permit to purchase them.

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This Nanakuli family was among those searching shelves for New Year's Eve entertainment at Don Quijote in Waipahu. From back: Khalem Fernandez, 13; his father, John; and his sister, Heavenly, 6.

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For the first time in years, the number of fireworks permits Honolulu issued for O'ahu's annual New Year's Eve blowout parties did a flaming nose dive, and authorities think it's because there's been an explosion in paperless fireworks.

"Yep," said Dennis Taga, Satellite City Hall division chief. "It's down. The number of permits has been increasing every year before this."

This year, the permit count fell by 323 permits, from 4,995 at this time in 2005 to 4,672 in 2006.

Taga said the reason could be an increase in the sales of paperless fireworks, which do not require a $25 city permit to purchase. He suspects fireworks will be popping just as much as ever this year, despite the drop in permits.

"I noticed last year a lot of my neighbors were buying those paperless fireworks," Taga said. "They burn clean, they're just as loud and there's no rubbish. It's amazing. And, since you don't need a permit, I think a lot of people are going with that."

Jeff Cagaoan, assistant store manager of Don Quijote in Waipahu, didn't doubt it. Yesterday, the first day fireworks went on sale in Honolulu, he said so many customers were snatching up paperless firecrackers it was practically impossible to squeeze in to restock the shelves.

"What's hot is paperless crackers," Cagaoan said. "The initial reaction when they came in the door was a just a mob grabbing them by the cases. People were coming in and loading up two or three wagons at a time.

"Aside from the regular crackers that need the permits from the Satellite City Hall, paperless are the ones being bought out."

Lionel and Robin Agcaoili of Kailua pushed a single shopping cart loaded with, in addition to their 21-month-old daughter, Margaret, both traditional and paperless fireworks.

Armed with four permits, the couple managed to reach the checkout counter with about $200 worth of fireworks, which Lionel Agcaoili described as "small stuff compared to what some customers are getting."

Robin Agcaoili proved to have something of an encyclopedic knowledge when it came to paperless firecrackers.

"The reason why it's called paperless is because after it pops, there's no paper left over there's no cleanup," she said. "It burns off everything it's the type of paper they use. You don't have to sweep up anything, actually.

"See," she said, holding up a package of paperless firecrackers. Through the cellophane, she pointed to a mass of skinny crackers constructed of gossamer-thin tissue wrappers containing less powder than regular firecrackers the reason, she said, paperless don't require permits.

"Paperless are cheaper but not as loud," Lionel Agcaoili added. "And there's mostly fire that you get, more than noise."

Honolulu Fire Department Capt. Kenison Tejada said all fireworks pose a danger regular, paperless or "novelty," a term he described as misleading.

"Novelty that's kind of a bad word for it in a way because people drop their guard when they hear that it's a 'novelty,'" Tejada said.

" 'Novelties' are the ones that shoot sparks out, streamers and so forth. It's all those big packs with the shooting fountains."

Ala Kam, salesman at Pacific Fireworks, half a block from Don Quijote, was doing brisk sales of some fireworks called Waikiki Lights which, like paperless fireworks, don't require a permit to purchase.

"It's been our biggest seller," said Kam of the fountain packs that last six minutes or more, and sell for just under $30 a package. "It's lots of different colors and lots of crackling."

Tejada, who said that New Year's Eve traditionally has been the fire department's busiest night of the year, would like to see something decline besides the number of fireworks permits this year.

"We want to report no injuries and no casualties on New Year's Day," he said. "That hasn't happened before. Every year, someone gets hurt."

Reach Will Hoover at whoover@honoluluadvertiser.com.