Bonnie Petrie

Fireworks Danger Outweighs Fourth of July Fun

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John White Photos/Flickr/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — It’s like a pilgrimage. Families in states where fireworks are strictly regulated make the long trek to giant stores on the other side of state lines in order to buy products where they don’t ask questions.

“We do this every year,” Crystal Leatherbury, who lives in Atlanta, told ABC News. “We make a family trip up.”

The “trip up” is to Lake Hartwell, S.C., just north of the Georgia line.

Every year, fireworks cause 18,000 fires, resulting in $32 million worth of property damage and 8,000 visits to the emergency room, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

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That’s why four states — Delaware, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York — ban them altogether. But there are still more than a dozen states that allow the biggest aerial fireworks to be sold.

“I believe there should be a designated shooter just like you have a designated driver on Saturday night,” said William Weimer of Phantom Fireworks, the Youngstown, Ohio, company that has 1,200 outlets around the country.

This year, one of the hottest items is The Excalibur, a firework with a blast radius the size of a basketball court. It’s the kind of firework people will drive for hours to obtain, knowing full well they’ll be breaking the law once they return home with their newly acquired explosive.

“It’s not the Fourth of July without fireworks,” Sabir Mohammad said.

But authorities disagree, and this year they are cracking down.

“We are going to confiscate them and you can get up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine,” Fire Chief J.D. Rice of Valdosta, Ga., said.

And that’s no way to spend the holiday.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

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