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Fireworks complaints boom during holiday weekend

The Fourth of July holiday saw a boom of illegal fireworks use throughout Chautauqua County.

“There was a tremendous increase in calls for illegal fireworks,” said Sgt. Brian Dietzen of the Dunkirk Police Department. “It started around Memorial Day and just continued through July.”

Exact totals were not available Monday, but Dietzen said appearance tickets for fireworks use were issued to people within the city of Dunkirk.

“It’s a safety issue,” he said of deterring use of illegal fireworks. “The houses are in close proximity and we don’t want houses to catch on fire from them being lit off.”

The number of complaints countywide appear to have increased as well. According to statistics released Monday by Sheriff James Quattrone, the department has received 41 complaints for fireworks so far this month. For all of July 2019, the department received 41 complaints, in addition to 41 again in July 2018, 29 in July 2017 and 28 in July 2016.

In June of this year, the Sheriff’s Office received 50 complaints in total. That compares to 19 in June 2019, 23 in June 2018, 10 in June 2017 and seven in June 2016.

“We continue to be concerned with the safety of those setting off fireworks and for those people on proximity of the fireworks,” Quattrone said. “The time taken to respond to firework complaints interferes with the ability to respond to other emergency calls.”

John Bentley, chief of the Lakewood-Busti Police Department, said specific statistics weren’t immediately available regarding fireworks set off over the holiday. He did note, though, that more were reported this year than in the past.

“We had a fair number of complaints this year,” Bentley said. “There were definitely more going off this year than we’ve seen.”

Meanwhile, the Jamestown Police Department is hoping the number of illegal fireworks being set off within the city drops with the passing of the Fourth of July holiday.

According to Capt. Robert Samuelson, the department received 98 complaints for fireworks from July 1 to Monday. That’s almost double the complaints seen in past years during the same time.

From June 1 to Monday, the department received 344 complaints regarding fireworks, which are illegal to set off anywhere within the county; only sparklers are permitted.

Use of the fireworks has resulted in arrests, Samuelson noted. He said five people were issued tickets for violating city code in June and three in July.

Jamestown Police warned in mid-June it planned to aggressively enforce the ban on illegal products, which have been heard throughout the city for the last month.

“The numbers are off the charts compared to past years,” Samuelson said Monday. “We have also received numerous online complaints as well about fireworks. We hope that with the passing of the holiday that the numbers fall off a bit as it has added a lot of calls to our patrol officers to try and chase down.”

“We will continue to charge anyone found to possess and use the illegal fireworks here in the city,” he continued. “We encourage tips and calls to continue to come in when this illegal activity is observed.”

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