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Fireworks sales expected to sizzle after ban on shooting them off lifted
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Sparklers and fireworks ranging in price from under $5 to as much as $150 sit out on the shelves for customers Tuesday at Xtreme Xplosives Fireworks in Gainesville. The store is gearing up for firework sales after Gov. Nathan Deal recently lifted the ban on fireworks because of drought conditions. - photo by Erin O. Smith

A popular fireworks retailer in Gainesville is gearing up for brisk sales in the wake of Gov. Nathan Deal’s recent decision to lift a ban on shooting them off.

Jason Sillay, owner of Xtreme Xplosives Fireworks, said he expects to stay busy until he closes his store, 984 Riverside Drive, at midnight on New Year’s Eve, which is Saturday.

“We’re ecstatic about the governor’s decision to lift the ban,” Sillay said at his store Wednesday. “We have a new shipment coming to make sure we’re well stocked.”

Deal issued an executive order Nov. 14 banning the ignition of consumer fireworks throughout many areas in the state because of persistent drought conditions over a span of several months. However, the governor rescinded his order Dec. 20 after much of the state had received sufficient rainfall.

“The Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner has determined that increased precipitation in recent weeks has diminished the threat posed by consumer fireworks and has requested the prohibition against the ignition of consumer fireworks be lifted,” Deal wrote in his new order.

Sillay said the original ban by the governor would not have kept fireworks retailers from selling their merchandise because the 2015 law legalizing fireworks in Georgia allows them to remain open during the industry’s two most lucrative days in the year — New Year’s Eve and the day prior to the Fourth of July — regardless of any ban.

However, the lifting of the ban clears up any misconceptions on the part of the public, which should help sales, Sillay added.

Local fire officials are urging consumers to exercise caution and common-sense safety measures to avoid fires or trips to the emergency room.

Gainesville Fire Department Division Chief Keith Smith said he expects many families will be ringing in the new year with fireworks.

“The fireworks law is a little over a year old, and everyone is excited about firing them off,” Smith said. “I and everyone else love to enjoy fireworks. I’d rather families go to an event and see them presented by professionals.”

A veteran of the department for 24 years, Smith said he’s been fortunate to not have witnessed any major calamity caused by the misuse of fireworks.

Smith said he understands people like to bring fireworks to their homes because it’s fun for the kids. However, he urged that the ignition of any fireworks be supervised by an adult at all times.

Smith also recommends that fireworks be ignited in an area clear of trees and power lines; never held in one’s hands while igniting them; and be lit one at a time.

“It goes without saying, but make sure they’re fired outside,” Smith added.

Sillay’s store carries a full line of fireworks from bottle rockets, mortars and Roman candles to sparklers for younger kids. Prices range from $3 to $200.

Last month, Georgia voters approved Amendment 4 that allows the state to impose a 5 percent excise tax on the sale of fireworks. Revenue from the dedicated tax will be earmarked for trauma care, fire protection services and public safety.

Sillay said last year’s law allowing the sale of most types of fireworks in Georgia was way overdue.

“Everybody was crossing the border and buying them in South Carolina, Alabama and Tennessee,” Sillay said.