America’s largest distributor of consumer fireworks and sparklers reports sales of fireworks have exploded this Fourth of July week compared to last year’s holiday.
TNT Fireworks operations include tents in Brainerd, Baxter, Little Falls and Pine River selling fireworks on a seasonal basis, and this season has been like no other.
“It’s been no secret sales are increasingly robust this year,” said Sherri Simmons, a TNT Fireworks spokesperson. “I think anybody who drives by our fireworks store or stand will pretty much see people are buying consumer fireworks that are legal in their communities.”
Simmons said the Alabama-based company does not release sales figures, but the American Pyrotechnics Association predicts a record-breaking year in consumer fireworks sales as several communities cancel large public fireworks displays because of coronavirus concerns.
“With the cancellation of many public displays due to COVID-19, more Americans are purchasing sparklers, sparkling devices and consumer fireworks to create their own family celebrations,” Simmons said.
TNT Fireworks is celebrating its 100th anniversary. What started as a roadside newsstand in Florence, Alabama, is now a fourth-generation family business operating in 49 states and Puerto Rico, as well as the United Kingdom and Canada.
“I know that there’s a lot of people buzzing about fireworks and about trying to find them and get them, so we’re expecting a lot more fireworks to be happening,” Pequot Lakes Police Chief Eric Klang said.
Because of cancellations of community Fourth of July celebrations nationwide due to social distancing mandates related to COVID-19, consumer fireworks retailers have reported sales are off to a record-breaking start, according to the American Pyrotechnics Association.
“This can be attributed to several different factors. Sales are higher when the Fourth of July holiday falls on a Saturday, as is the case this year,” Simmons said.
TNT Fireworks tents in Minnesota only sell products that are legal in Minnesota, which are nonexplosive and nonaerial, such as sparklers, sparkling fountains and novelty items like party poppers.
“Customers are making their purchases earlier in many cases to avoid long lines closer to the holiday and make sure that their favorite items are not sold out,” Simmons said.
Klang said, “There’s a lot more buzz about people wanting to buy fireworks. And as I hear, they’re talking about driving over to Wisconsin or North Dakota ... picking up these fireworks, so I’m expecting there to be a lot more fireworks happening in the Brainerd lakes area.”
Klang, however, reminded residents the rules for fireworks in Minnesota are different than in Wisconsin and North Dakota.
“An easy way to know whether or not fireworks are legal or not is if it flies, if it explodes … it’s illegal in Minnesota. And one of the challenges we have is enforcing that because we just don’t have the man-hours to go out and check every one of these places where we get called on for fireworks complaints,” Klang said.
Local community fireworks displays are still scheduled, however, in Brainerd, Crosslake and Deerwood on Independence Day, and in Pequot Lakes on Friday, July 3, for the public to enjoy.
“Public displays are an American tradition, and it is disappointing that so many displays and events had to be canceled to help prevent the spread of COVID-19,” Simmons said of other public fireworks displays across the country.
Klang said of consumer fireworks celebrations, “Keep in mind that they can be dangerous. Sometimes they’re faster than what you think and they’ll go off and they can injure you.”
Consumer fireworks retailers recommend customers shop early in order to avoid long lines and crowd-controlled showrooms, according to the trade association of the fireworks industry.
“The APA predicts an all-time high in backyard consumer fireworks sales and use as families prepare to celebrate Independence Day at home due to the pandemic and cancellation of large public celebrations,” Executive Director Julie L. Heckman stated in a news release.
To make the shopping process easier, the TNT Fireworks app allows consumers to use their smartphones to view its products using augmented reality, and with the app, customers can preview videos of an item’s performance.
“Our TNT fireworks team has created several different methods, such as online ordering and curbside pickup, to promote physical distancing and limit contact,” Executive Vice President Carson Anderson stated in a news release.
TNT Fireworks is adhering to all federal, state and local requirements regarding the sale of fireworks, as well as implementing COVID-19 best practices, according to company officials.
“Obviously, I’m sure there are people out there that are getting them in the black market, but those haven’t been reported to us for the last two years anyway,” Klang said of illegal fireworks sales.
Backyard fireworks have never been more popular or more in demand, according to the association, and 49 states plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico allow the sale and use of some types of consumer fireworks; Massachusetts is the only state that prohibits it.
And as fireworks have gained in popularity, so have the number of noise complaints about them increased.
“I think the number of complaints for reference of fireworks has certainly gone up,” Klang said. “I think a lot more people are at home or staying at home. … I hear fireworks going off every night here for the last week.”
The APA’s stated mission is to encourage safety in the design and use of all types of fireworks, to provide industry information and support its members, and to promote responsible regulation of the fireworks industry.
What fireworks are legal, what are not in Minnesota
Certain nonexplosive and nonaerial consumer fireworks are permitted by law in Minnesota:
Cones and tubes that emit sparks.
Novelty items like “snakes” and party poppers.
Anything that flies or explodes is illegal, such as:
Mortars and shells.
Source: Pequot Lakes Fire Department
Follow these safety tips when using fireworks
Never allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks.
Avoid buying fireworks that are packaged in brown paper because this is often a sign that the fireworks were made for professional displays and that they could pose a danger to consumers.
Always have an adult supervise fireworks activities. Parents don’t realize that young children suffer injuries from sparklers. Sparklers burn at temperatures of about 2,000 degrees — hot enough to melt some metals.
Never place any part of your body directly over a fireworks device when lighting the fuse. Back up to a safe distance immediately after lighting fireworks.
Never try to re-light or pick up fireworks that have not ignited fully.
Never point or throw fireworks at another person.
Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of fire or other mishaps.
Light fireworks one at a time, then move back quickly.
Never carry fireworks in a pocket or shoot them off in metal or glass containers.
After fireworks complete their burning, douse the spent device with plenty of water from a bucket or hose before discarding it to prevent a trash fire.
Make sure fireworks are legal in your area before buying or using them.
Source: U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission