Council chiefs have urged the public to beware ‘dubious’ firework sellers in the run-up to Bonfire Night.
Dozens of shops in the region are allowed to stock the devices in the weeks leading up to the annual event.
But plenty of people still choose to buy from unregulated sources, which may be selling illegal versions not safe for personal use.
Speaking at the Tyne and Wear Trading Standards Joint Committee, which covers Sunderland and South Tyneside, Gateshead’s Coun Kevin Dodds, the panel’s chairman, appealed for the public to avoid unnecessary risks.
He said: “Make sure anything being bought is legitimate and not from some dubious salesperson from Facebook or online.
“Also bear in mind that A&E departments and the fire service have the potential to be extremely busy.”
Using or selling fireworks illegally carries a fine of up to £5,000 or six months’ imprisonment, as well as the possibility of a £90 on-the-spot fine.
Council staff, together with the fire service, are responsible for checking that approved retailers are storing products safely.
They also make sure stores don’t sell to under-18s, although according to Richard Reading, Sunderland City Council’s trading standards and licensing manager, results of recent test purchases have been ‘encouraging’.
Members of the committee also asked whether sellers might attempt to build their own fireworks in an attempt to get around sales restrictions.
Mr Reading replied this was uncommon, but had happened.
He said: “We haven’t had any evidence, although it is possible, but reworking is the more likely way of people manufacturing their own.
“You take several small ones apart to make a larger one.
“We haven’t got any evidence of that, but I know it has been done and it’s only been on a commercial basis that they’ve done it.”
Guide to fireworks:
Fireworks can only be bought from registered shops, which can either sell all year round or only at specified times of year;
For stores without an all-year licence, these are: October 15 – November; December 26 – 31; the three days before Diwali and Chinese New Year;
You must be over 18 to buy fireworks;
Fireworks cannot be set off between 11pm – 7am, except on certain days, such as New Year and Bonfire Night;
Only category F2 and F3 fireworks are suitable for personal use – category F4 are for professional use only;
Category F1 refers to fireworks which are suitable for use indoors;
Fireworks, including sparklers, are not allowed to be set off in the street or other public places;
Using or selling fireworks illegally carries a fine of up to £5,000 or six months imprisonment, as well as the possibility of a £90 on-the-spot fine.
James Harrison, Local Democracy Reporting Service