Reading City Council looks to state to limit fireworks sales

READING, Pa. - Members of the Reading City Council and the police chief met with the city administration to discuss measures to address issues with fireworks during Independence Day festivities.

At Monday's council meeting, Managing Director Osmer Deming reported that there were eight fires last Thursday. Multiple buildings were damaged by fireworks, including Amanda Stout Elementary School on South 10th Street, which suffered an estimated $50,000 worth of damage.

In addition, there were three dumpster fires, two trash fires, and one brush fire.

Reading fire Chief William Stoudt Jr said his crews, along with suburban fire companies, responded to those eight fires in a two-hour time span.

"There is a concern... we could be tied up on different fires and there could be a loss of life somewhere," Stoudt said.

Deming said he believes the police and fire departments did an excellent job with what they had to work with and that they need to think outside the box to determine a solution.

Stoudt and fire chiefs across the state are pushing to repeal the law passed in 2017 that expanded the sales of more powerful fireworks, and council members are backing the movement.

"Whoever wrote that law ought to come down here and see what's going on and see what he thinks," Councilman Stratton Marmarou said.

Stoudt presented the council with a report from the Pennsylvania Career Fire Chiefs Association. It includes a memorandum from state representatives planning to introduce legislation to change the law. Stoudt is encouraging everyone, including council members, to support the resolution.

"The city administration is going to be working proactively with both the fire chief and the police chief. That plan is in place so that something like this doesn't happen next year," Deming said.

Councilwoman Marcia Goodman-Hinnershitz said there were also issues at the Pagoda. She said enforcement of the noise ordinance needs to be increased.

"We do need to make arrests for those individuals who are violating our noise ordinance, and we need to come up with more proactive ways to limit access," she said. "I don't want to do that, but unfortunately, there are people who are just not respectful of the law."

"I know what the answer is, but it seems to be difficult to get across," Marmarou said. "We need more police officers. Visibility of that uniform and car is the greatest deterrent."

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