Fireworks are Booming, Earlier and Louder Than Ever

For reasons nobody quite understands, fireworks are everywhere.

Setting off fireworks in Brooklyn
Setting off fireworks in New York.


Stephanie Keith/ Getty Images

I will state this up front: I hate fireworks. They are loud and they are dangerous and they are polluting and they scare my dogs and my kids and me. This year, I hate them more than ever; for reasons nobody quite understands, they are ubiquitous weeks before the Fourth of July. According to Gothamist, noise complaints related to fireworks in New York City are up a crazy 4,000% over last year. But it’s not just New York; according to the Associated Press, “They’ve become a nightly nuisance ringing out from Connecticut to California, angering sleep-deprived residents and alarming elected officials.”

This is all after a dream-time when some urbanists fantasized that we would learn from the lockdown and appreciate the quiet streets and clean air. Instead, some say the boom in fireworks is all about making noise and blowing off steam after being locked inside. Kaitlyn Tiffany of the Atlantic writes about fireworks retailer Randall Horvath, who notes that his sales are up 60%:

Horvath suspects that amateur pyrotechnics have become popular because fireworks shows have been canceled, vacations are off, and there’s nothing to do. People have been stuck inside. They want to set things on fire. He also suggested that the companies that make fireworks for professional displays—such as the shows put on by cities or amusement parks—have turned to the consumer market. “These people have to make money,” he said.

Kriston Capps of CityLab
points to many possible causes:

This summer’s Great American Fireworks Conflagration has everything: It’s a culture story about cooped-up teens finding release during the summer of shutdown. It’s a postcard from the Covid economy, with the pyrotechnics industry offering fire-sale discounts in the wake of so many canceled Fourth of July shows. And it’s a multi-city portrait of the nation’s Karens, those much-memed embodiments of white entitlement who demand police intervention over every trifling annoyance.

What is the appropriate response to such a call? In one case, according to Caroline Haskins in Buzzfeed, the police showed up with helicopters, “helmets, shields, batons, body armor, and holding Tasers.”

fireworks in Brooklyn
More fireworks in Brooklyn. Stephanie Keith/ Google images 

Meanwhile, other theories abound. Author Robert Jones Jr. thinks it is a “false-flag” operation and explains on Facebook:

The goal, we think, is multifaceted:
1.Sleep deprivation as a means to create confusion and stoke tensions between Black and Brown peoples.
2.Desensitization as a means to get us so used to the sounds of firecrackers and other fireworks that when they start using their real artillery on us we won't know the difference. It's meant to sound like a war zone because a war zone is what it's about to become.

My colleague Russell McLendon has explained how fireworks are bad for the environment and I have previously listed nine reasons to rant about them. They have always been political; John Adams called for the celebration of Independence Day “with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”

But that was just one day, not a month, and now they are divisive and conspiratorial. A tenth reason to rant.