Volunteer fire officials Tuesday pressed Suffolk lawmakers to preserve a ban on sparkler sales to protect youngsters from burn injuries despite a new state law that automatically makes such sales legal unless counties opt out.
The new law, which also permits ground displays known as firework fountains, loosens a 2015 law, which for the first time let counties outside New York City allow sparkler sales if counties vote to permit them.
Forty counties have voted to allow sales, but Nassau and Suffolk have not.
“Despite their relatively benign appearance, sparklers can be extremely dangerous,” said Eugene Perry, a veteran Patchogue fire official representing the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York.
Perry said sparklers burn as hot as 2,000 degrees — “as hot as a blow torch.”
Industry officials downplayed the dangers, saying wood-handled sparklers allowed in New York are safer than those with metal handles. They said legal sales will bring in tax revenue and cut down on residents traveling out of state for larger and more dangerous fireworks.
Vincent Szabo, regional manager for Phantom Fireworks of Youngstown, Ohio, said safety instructions are included in sparkler packages. He likened the heat created by a wood-handled sparkler to that of a match.
Firefighters said matches burn at 600 to 800 degrees.
“The whole idea is to have some fun, not get someone hurt,” Szabo said. “All we do is push safety, safety, safety.”
“My argument is simple,” said Donald Corkery, past president of the firemen’s association and a former Sayville fire chief. “What is the first thing you teach a child? ‘Don’t play with matches.’ ”
Under the new state law, sparklers and other ground displays will be permitted to be sold from July 1 to July 5 and from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1. unless Suffolk bans them. Buyers would have to be over the age of 18.
So far, no county has moved to ban sales under the new law, although industry officials say Schenectady is considering a similar ban.
Republican Legis. Rudolph Sunderman and Democratic Legis Tom Donnelly, both firefighters, expressed confidence the Suffolk ban would pass.