Huge haul of fireworks weighing a total of more than a quarter of a tonne seized
A huge haul of illegal and potentially dangerous fireworks have been seized in Tyne and Wear thanks to the work of police, fire chiefs and Trading Standards.
With several pre-organised displays cancelled due to Covid-19 restrictions, increased numbers of residents have been buying fireworks to set off in their own gardens.
While bonfires and secondary fires put major demands on Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service (TWFRS) during the bonfire period, the service has also been carrying out other work to keep the public safe.
This includes targeting unlicensed fireworks vendors looking to profit from the lockdown.
In 2020, around 277kg of explosive material was taken off the streets.
“This is the amount of explosive material that would have been in each of these fireworks,” said Peter Heath, assistant chief fire officer for TWFRS.
“If you want to take the total volume of fireworks as they are sold, to put that into context, somewhere in the equivalent of two transit van loads full of explosive materials were seized because they were either being sold illegally, stored illegally or didn’t comply with the standards that are necessary.
“That was a joint effort with ourselves, Northumbria Police and Trading Standards and these [fireworks] are seized and safely and securely stored and disposed of – and again the work with partners in that is really helpful in terms of supporting that work.
“That means that those fireworks didn’t get into the hands of people who might choose to do something silly or indeed where they didn’t meet a standard, [fireworks] become dangerous to those that might use them.”
Mr Heath was speaking at Monday’s (November 9) meeting of the fire authority’s Policy and Performance Committee, which was held via videolink and broadcast on YouTube.
The chief was updating councillors on the work of the fire and rescue service during the bonfire period, November 1-6.
Compared to the same period last year, there were spikes in the number of calls received and incidents attended, alongside an increase in deliberate secondary fires such as waste and bin fires.
One incident of an attack against firefighters was recorded, while incidents where ‘fireworks or bonfire material contributed towards a related primary fire’ doubled – from one to two.
Gateshead councillor Kevin Dodds asked whether the increase in firework use in private gardens and backyards during the bonfire period had led to more members of the public being injured.
Chief fire officer, Chris Lowther, responded: “As we sit here today I haven’t heard of any serious injuries related to fireworks which, if that is the case, would be very good and different from previous years.”
On the fireworks seizure, he added: “A lot of these fireworks aren’t safe, a lot of these fireworks do not have the ‘CE stamp’ on them, they don’t go through any ratification process.
“They are essentially the fuel of organised crime over the bonfire period, organised crime shifts its business from perhaps narcotics and cigarettes into fireworks.
“And our teams have done really well in confiscating large numbers of these very dangerous fireworks.”
It’s only legal for most retailers to sell fireworks at certain times of the year and only if they have a valid licence.