Everything you need to know — permits, safety tips, caring for pets on New Year’s Eve

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KAILUA-KONA — If you’re going to blow things up this year, know the rules.

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KAILUA-KONA — If you’re going to blow things up this year, know the rules.

First things first, proper permits are needed for firecrackers and can be purchased at several locations in West Hawaii for revelers planning to ring in 2017.

Although a permit isn’t required for smaller fireworks, according to West Hawaii Battalion Chief John Whitman.

At Crossroads Shopping Center, Phantom Fireworks sub-contractor Bonnie Hunter said business has been steady since her tent opened on Monday.

Meanwhile, at a Phantom Fireworks tent at the Kona Coast Shopping Center, Letty Benavides said the first couple days for her have been pretty mellow, but she expects it to ramp up as the New Year’s holiday draws nearer.

“New Year’s Eve is pretty insane shopping,” she said.

For that reason, she said, people should buy their fireworks sooner rather than later before some of the best fireworks sell out.

“We always run out of the big boxes … so you kinda have to beat the crowds,” she said.

Hunter said “ground blooming flowers,” which spin and light up, sending sparks and showers have been popular buys this year, along with fountains.

She added that people have been somewhat disappointed to learn that larger fireworks, such as bottle rockets, mortars and other big aerial displays are illegal and thus unavailable for purchase.

At Benavides’ tent, the woman said the “ground boom flowers,” which are similar to the blooming flowers but finish with a bang, have been popular sells.

Kristen Kahalioumi of Kona was at that tent with his son, looking at the wares. He said he was looking for fireworks his son could set off, like fountains, morning glories or butterflies.

New Year’s Eve, he said, is “kinda subtle” at his house, adding that his neighborhood as a whole celebrates pretty loudly.

“Our whole neighborhood goes out,” he said. “They go all out.”

Both Benavides and Hunter have permits for firecrackers available for sale, but they said many people seem content with buying the fireworks that don’t need a permit.

“We definitely get more people that just want to shop,” Benavides said.

Permits are $25 and allow the holder to buy up to 5,000 individual firecrackers.

The law allows for the purchase of multiple permits, which can only be issued to those 18 years of age or older. The sale of fireworks is ongoing and will end at midnight on New Year’s Eve.

Fireworks may be set off between 9 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 31, and 1 a.m. on Sunday, Jan. 1. It is illegal to set off fireworks at any time outside of that window, according to the Hawaii Fire Department.

It is also illegal to set off fireworks on any public way, such as a highway, alley, street, sidewalk or park.

Under Hawaii state law, violators can be fined up to $2,000.

Hawaii Police Department spokeswoman Chris Loos said she wasn’t able to find any records of citations issued during the previous New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. She added that violators must be caught in the act before they can be cited.

Whitman advised residents and visitors celebrating the holiday to do so safely, adding that every year emergency units respond to accidents related to the mishandling of fireworks.

“We always get lots of calls,” he said.

The number of fireworks-related incidents varies greatly every year, he said.

“Be safe,” Whitman said.

In a press release, the Hawaii Fire Department advised “extreme care when setting off fireworks,” noting that “even the smallest of fireworks” can result in serious injuries.

The department also recommended celebrants make sure fireworks are extinguished before disposal and advised that they keep a fire extinguisher or water hose on hand in the event of an unexpected fire.

“It’s also a great idea to wet down any dry, grassy area before and after setting off fireworks,” the release stated.

And while celebrations can be fun for everyone, they aren’t always a great time for four-legged friends.

Whitney Sickels, of the Hawaii Island Humane Society, said it’s best to keep pets indoors in a room or crate in which they feel safe when fireworks are going off.

She added that putting on a television, music or other ambient noise can also help drown out the bangs and pops outside.

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Sickels also stressed the importance of making sure pets wear a collar with identification. But, she noted, pets can slip out of their collars, making microchips the ideal option.

She said pets can be microchipped for $10 at any shelter location without an appointment through New Year’s Eve. She added that pet owners should also verify that if pets are already microchipped that they carry the most up-to-date information.