Photo Gallery | Buying fireworks
BRATTLEBORO — Two friends walked into a fireworks shop and left with a shopping cart full of products.
Their plans were "to be determined," said Donovan Fenton, of Keene, N.H.
"We got to get the ammo first," said Andrew Loney, of Chesterfield, N.H.
"We'll play it by ear," said Fenton.
They were not alone in the Hinsdale, N.H.-based Phantom Fireworks on Tuesday. Not by a long shot.
The week of and before July 4 is the busiest time of year for the store.
"Without a question," said Crawford Warrick, an employee of the company's corporate management.
Christmas and New Year's Eve are the second most busy times for Phantom. By Tuesday, the store had seen over a thousand people coming in to get supplies for their July 4th celebrations. Another 1,500 to 2,000 customers were expected before the holiday.
Last year, the store sold about $3 million in fireworks.
"We're shooting for that again," said Warrick, who was sent from the Ohio office to help in Hinsdale. "We have 75 superstores, which would be a warehouse like this, and over 1,500 locations. It's amazing how far people will drive. On a daily basis, we have customers who drive four hours just to come here and they come from all over the East Coast."
Some passersby might wonder how shops selling fireworks right next door to one another survive. Phantom, Fantasy Fireworks and TNT Fireworks Supercenter all have addresses on Brattleboro Road.
Warrick said one neighboring business does not carry as much product as Phantom does, and Phantom will match competitors' prices. Also, the store sees loyalty from customers. By keeping records, Phantom can steer people back to products deemed successful by shows they've put on in years past.
Most customers go for the finale packages, according to Warrick. But he said the best one is the "Grounds for Divorce" package. Since Friday, he has seen at least one of those packages sold each day. The $1,500 product is offered in a buy-one get-one free deal.
Not sold in the store — due to New Hampshire laws — are bottle rockets, M-80s, firecrackers and smoke bombs.
Safety is not forgotten by the store. With any purchase comes a brochure containing guidelines for using fireworks.
"We sell safety kits, too," Warrick said of packages that include extended wicks, gloves and other materials.
Local fire officials also urge safety.
"Obviously, fireworks can be dangerous," Brattleboro Fire Chief Mike Bucossi said. "Every year, not only in Vermont but throughout the country, there are injuries sustained by people that are not familiar with fireworks trying to set them off."
Burns, loss of limbs and deaths have been to known to occur. Bucossi recalled responding to a small fire on a porch as a result of using fireworks. Every few years, he said, there will be a brushfire started the same way.
Concerns exist around fireworks on July 4 with the minimal amount of rain recently, Bucossi said. His department's Facebook page online and the electronic message board in front of the West Brattleboro station will feature messages around safety.
"One thing I'd caution folks is to beware of their surroundings," Bucossi said. "If they're using legal fireworks and they let their children use them — though I would not recommend that, I do understand it happens — supervise them very closely and just use extreme caution and keep the holiday safe and happy."
In Vermont, only sparklers and novelty items are allowed.
"Anything like firecrackers, bottle rockets, roman candles and barrel bombs are all illegal," said Bucossi. "Certainly the bigger ones like that are illegal for a good reason in that they hold enough gunpowder to cause serious injuries."
The larger fireworks displays, like the one planned for Living Memorial Park in Brattleboro on July 4 at 9:30 p.m., all require permits from the Vermont Division of Fire and Safety. Those hired to set off the fireworks come licensed and qualified, Bucossi said.
Hinsdale Fire Chief Jay Matuszewski said his biggest concern has to do with fireworks landing on property not belonging to the one setting them off.
"Anything people put up into the air should go on their own property and they should have the proper means to put it out, because it is very dry right now," he said.
His department has spent two days at a brushfire on Oak Hill Road.
Besides adult supervision with fireworks, Matuszewski recommends moderation with alcohol.
"You lose your senses sometimes. Just be sensible about that," he said. "Sometimes, people have a few too many and they do foolish things."
Hinsdale does not require permits for fireworks but the neighboring town of Winchester does. For larger fireworks displays, a state permit is needed in any New Hampshire town.
Any damages resulting from fireworks will fall on the person who set them off, Matuszewski warned.
"It's all common sense. Make sure you got enough area to do it and go for it. I don't begrudge anyone for doing that," he said. "It's fun."
Contact Chris Mays at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311, ext. 273.