EASTHAMPTON, Mass. (WWLP) – A certificate to launch fireworks was suspended for an individual after an investigation was conducted.
According to the Massachusetts Department of Fire Services, Christopher J. Wheeler is prohibited from performing any work regulated under the fireworks certificate of competency for three years.
The State Fire Marshal suspended his license on August 9th after an investigation conducted by the Pittsfield and Easthampton fire departments along with the Massachusetts Department of Fire Services Code Compliance and Enforcement Unit.
Wheeler, who was employed by Central Maine Pyrotechnics, was a licensed fireworks shooter for displays on May 26th in Pittsfield and on June 24th in Easthampton. He waived his right to a hearing and acknowledged that he lit unignited shells by hand (using a torch or battery) at both shows, according to the State Fire Marshal Spokesperson Jake Wark.
In Pittsfield, the squibs, small electrically-fired charges that are supposed to ignite the fireworks shells, were the wrong connectors. In Easthampton, the squibs were popping out of their ports. No injuries or fires were caused by these incidents.
It is required in Massachusetts that fireworks displays have to be electrically fired and that the firing units, wiring, and connections be adequately maintained under the state’s comprehensive fire safety code.
Wheeler’s certificate may be reinstated after 18 months if he retakes and passes the required examination. If you believe any regulated work is being conducted by Wheeler in your community contact the state code compliance/enforcement at 978-567-3375.
In addition, the fireworks certificate of competency was suspended for Anthony Marson of Maine, who was also employed by Central Maine Pyrotechnics, after an investigation was conducted into the July 4th display in Edgartown.
After the fireworks event, more than two dozen unexploded commercial fireworks shells washed ashore on Chappaquiddick Island. Both Marston and Central Maine Pyrotechnics acknowledged violations of the Massachusetts Fire Code.
Marston is prohibited from pyrotechnics work in Massachusetts for the next five years and five years in a probationary period. Central Maine Pyrotechnics accepted a two-year suspension that will be held in abeyance as a probationary period.
“Fireworks are inherently dangerous,” said State Fire Marshal Ostroskey. “Communities trust professional fireworks vendors to handle these devices with the utmost caution and professionalism. We’re extremely fortunate that no one was injured by the grave public safety hazard that unexploded shells posed on a public beach.”
In more than 100 permitted fireworks displays this season, the State Fire Marshal’s office only had to take licensing action in connection with four of them (including these three), according to Wark.
In Massachusetts, individuals using fireworks must have a certificate of competency to work lawfully for professional fireworks displays. It is illegal for residents to use, possess, or sell fireworks of all kinds. This includes fireworks that are purchased legally elsewhere and brought into Massachusetts, sparklers, firecrackers, cherry bombs, and other fireworks. Fines range anywhere from $10 to $1,000, and some violations could have a one-year prison sentence.
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