Gary D’Amico’s fireworks tent on the parking lot of a North Tonawanda Walmart has triggered a flurry of calls to the town’s Fire Department.
People want to know if it’s legal to buy pyrotechnics there.
And for the first time in Niagara County history, the answer is yes.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in November signed a law that legalized the sale and use of small fireworks, which include sparklers and party poppers.
But there’s a caveat: Counties and municipalities can decide whether to abide by the legislation.
In Western New York, Niagara, Allegany and Cattaraugus counties legalized small fireworks.
All other counties in the region, including Erie County, have not lifted the ban on pyrotechnics.
What that means is that sparklers can be sold between June 1 and July 5 and between Dec. 26 and Jan. 2 in Niagara County, but not in Erie County.
Larger fireworks, such as sky rockets and firecrackers, remain illegal throughout New York State. Buying or selling banned fireworks is a Class B misdemeanor.
And even the sparklers can only be purchased by people 18 or older in the counties that participate in the new state law.
Chain stores like Dollar General have a small selection of sparklers and other permitted pyrotechnics. Other vendors include tents like D’Amico’s, who rented parking lot space from Walmart to set up shop. He’s running the business with 15 of his family members.
He and his family organized the merchandise Friday so it would be ready for business by Saturday morning.
Most of D’Amico’s merchandise is small devices that release colorful sparks. The fireworks shoot up showers as short as 5 feet or as tall as 15 feet, said Carl D’Amico, one of D’Amico’s family members. Each product has labels that explain how the pyrotechnics should be managed and how much noise they make.
“It’s geared toward the family man that has enough space in his backyard to put a show on for his kids,” D’Amico said.
Sparklers are less dangerous and intrusive than larger fireworks. Still, people should be careful, said Thomas Croop, North Tonawanda assistant fire chief.
He suggested to keep a water bucket, fire extinguisher or water hose at hand to fully put out the sparklers. Parents should supervise children and keep them from running while holding the devices. Croop also recommended not mixing alcohol and fireworks and warned against using pyrotechnics indoors.
“We don’t want anybody’s holiday celebration be to marred or ruined,” Croop said.
When buying fireworks, people should check the vendor’s licenses, which include a certificate from the New York State Office of Fire Prevention and Control and a permit from the U.S. Department of Justice.
D’Amico’s tent passed all safety inspections, he said. He’s excited about his new business and doesn’t want to cut any corners.
“This is history. We are making history in Niagara County,” he said.