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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, January 1, 2010

Honolulu has a blast on Eve

By Michael Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Lenny Vea of Makiki took 2-year-old Mosese to see the fireworks last night at the Wet'n'Wild waterpark in Kapolei.

REBECCA BREYER | The Honolulu Advertiser

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Bernard Villanueva lights a small string of firecrackers to set off on Kopke Street in Kalihi.

NORMAN SHAPIRO | The Honolulu Advertiser

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Hawai'i residents rang in 2010 with fireworks, and many O'ahu communities were blanketed by smoke yesterday well before the legal 9 p.m. start time.

In Kalihi, 54-year-old Joseph Padua and a few friends and family set off firecrackers in the parking lot outside Jesse's Coffee Shop, which Padua manages.

"Burning money!" Padua said, laughing. "We didn't buy that much fireworks this year because of the recession but it's still a tradition."

As of 10 p.m., the Honolulu Fire Department reported responding to 11 fireworks-related calls, all relatively minor.

Sporadic but heavy rain over parts of O'ahu may have helped keep things under control.

Shortly after 12:30 a.m. today, paramedics were sent to two calls of fireworks injuries in Waipahu and Mā'ili.

Earlier at Likelike Elementary, Willie Singleton, 55, of Kalihi, joined family and neighbors in setting off a few fireworks.

"Fireworks are a local tradition to chase away evil spirits," said Singleton, who grew up in Detroit. "That's what we do here.

"Tomorrow I'm going to cook up some black-eyed peas as part of my black tradition. Good luck is good luck, regardless of the culture."

The unemployed baker and cook said he hopes for a more prosperous 2010.

"I hope people have the chance to get back to work and that kids get to go back to school like they should," he said.

Dana Hanohano, 43, and her children Ha'aheo, Ho'okela, and Hi'ilei spent the evening celebrating with family in Liliha.

"For us, fireworks are entertainment for the kids," she said. "It's better here than in Waimānalo. The smoke is so thick there you can barely see the road."

Illegal aerials could be spotted all around Kalihi Valley, where by mid-evening the streets were carpeted with spent fireworks.

Bernard Villanueva, 27, sat in his garage with family and friends to take in the scene.

"You can turn 360 degrees and see them everywhere," he said.

A few yards away, a cluster of tubes used to launch aerial fireworks sat temporarily empty. Villanueva said the device was being shared by families on the block with plausible deniability assured to all.

Joel Domingo, 27, and his family ushered in the new year with an assortment of devices, including a noisemaker "cannon" made out of aluminum cans and duct tape and fueled by lighter fluid. Domingo was vague about plans for midnight, but admitted "a few illegals" might be involved.

His wish for the New Year was simple. "You know, health and happiness for everybody," he said. "And that the Lakers win the championship."

Of the 11 fires reported as of 10 p.m., four were small wildfires, four rubbish fires, one vehicle fire and two others. Several other fires were reported but were not classified as probable fireworks related.

HFD spokesman Capt. Terry Seelig noted that reports of probable fireworks-related fires represent quick field assessments of a fire's cause and are not considered official determinations.

No damage estimates were available last night.

Last New Year's, the Honolulu Fire Department responded to 58 fire calls, 26 of which were fireworks related, with total damages of $10,000. In 2007, the department fielded 79 calls, 33 fire-related, for a loss of $83,500.

HFD spokesman Capt. Terry Seelig noted that reports of probable fireworks-related fires represent quick field assessments of a fire's cause and are not considered official determinations.

Satellite city halls reported sales of 8,055 firecracker permits this year, reversing a three-year decline. Last year, 6,924 permits were issued.

The city issued 9,219 firecracker permits in 2007, 10,960 in 2006, 13,979 in 2005 and 12,525 in 2004.

Under state law, consumer fireworks legally could be set off from 9 p.m. yesterday to 1 a.m. today, a four-hour window.