Nassau County officials held a news conference at Old Bethpage on Wednesday to demonstrate the dangers of illegal fireworks and they warned they will be out in force looking to make arrests. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Nassau police are teaming up with the county’s Consumer Affairs department to investigate illegal sales of fireworks, the cause of "too many injuries," County Executive Laura Curran said Wednesday.

With the Fourth of July weekend approaching, Curran and other officials gathered Wednesday at the Nassau County Fire Service Academy in Old Bethpage for a demonstration of just how dangerous fireworks can be.

Curran has asked Nassau police to work with Consumer Affairs to investigate all alleged illegal sales of fireworks.

"We don’t want our Fourth of July celebrations to be interrupted because somebody has to go to the emergency room," Curran said at a news conference beforehand.

Fire and law enforcement officials, with chunks of wood and a watermelon subbing in for humans to show fireworks' potential danger, demonstrated how one mistake could end the holiday with a hospital trip, or worse.

Illegal fireworks explode into a ball of flames during a...

Illegal fireworks explode into a ball of flames during a demonstration Wednesday at the Nassau County Fire Service Academy in Old Bethpage. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Sparklers and other fireworks banned in New York State were placed in wood and the watermelon and then lit. Idle objects were suddenly consumed by flames and billowing smoke. One firework tucked in a watermelon blew it into a mess of dripping pieces. Lit sparklers — a relatively innocuous, though illegal, holiday favorite — placed in a chunk of wood, eventually burned down to the point where the object caught fire.

Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said that besides speeding motorcycles at night, the most calls the department has received so far in 2021 are complaints about fireworks.

In recent years, Long Islanders have lost fingers due to mishaps with fireworks. In 2018, a 26-year-old Gordon Heights man lost three fingers on his left hand, Suffolk County police said at the time. In Nassau, a man lost his thumb and suffered extensive trauma to both hands in 2018 after lighting a firework he found on Periwinkle Road in Levittown, police said.

"We can’t tell you enough how important it is to just enjoy the fireworks that are done by the professionals and get away from those that want to shoot them off on the corner," Ryder said. "As they’re setting up, call us. We need to prevent these injuries from happening. We need to make sure we get out in front of it."

Ryder said anyone possessing fireworks can face up to a D-felony.

Fireworks are sold over the counter outside New York, said Det. Lt. Ken Strigaro, of the Nassau police Arson Bomb Squad, accounting for some that make it to Long Island.

Toward the end of June of 2020, Nassau police had received 1,277 complaints about fireworks compared to 242 in June of 2019, authorities said at the time. In Suffolk, police had received 144 complaints by the end of June 2020, compared to 65 for the same period in 2019, a 121% increase, officials said at the time.

Reports of sales of illegal fireworks can be made through a new Nassau County Department of Consumer Affairs tip line at Nassau residents are encouraged to call 911.

With Howard Schnapp

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