Retailers hope for sparkling four days

By Elizabeth Binning

As people walk out of stores with armfuls of colourful multi-shots, fountains and spinners, firefighters are preparing for what they hope will be a safer and quieter Guy Fawkes than last year.

Extra staff are being brought into the Fire Service communications centres tonight in anticipation of what is traditionally a busy time for emergency service workers.

Today is the first of four days on which fireworks can be sold this year but it is hoped new rules surrounding who can buy them and when will lead to fewer problems than have been encountered in the past.

Those changes include a shorter sales period - reduced from 10 days to four - and raising the age people can buy fireworks from 14 years to 18 years. Sparklers - which have been used in the past to make sparkler bombs - will also no longer be sold separately.

Auckland Region deputy chief fire safety officer Glenn Menzies said the Fire Service preferred people attending public displays but for those wanting to light their own crackers this weekend there was just one request: "Act responsibly and keep an eye out for anything that might flare up."

During the peak of Guy Fawkes last year, the Fire Service communications centre received nearly 800 calls over a two-night period - the majority of which were fireworks related.

Calls included everything from suspicious bush fires and exploding letterboxes to fires started after crackers accidentally landed on roofs.

This year, with the start of the sale period coinciding with the weekend, the communications centre is bringing in extra staff to cover what is expected to be a hectic few days.

Retailers are also preparing for a busy few days and have spent this week stocking shelves full to the brim in preparation for a mad rush.

At Hobson St's Wah Lee, speciality teas have been pulled from the shelves as staff replace them with a huge ranges of fireworks, including Fiery Demon, Howling Coyote, Happy Lamp and King of Pirate.

Across the road, Soung Yueen has plastered a massive sign advertising its array of fireworks to the side of its building.

Wah Lee store co-owner Barry Wah Lee said he had some new kinds of fireworks but mainly preferred to stick with favourites that had been available for sometime.

"I try to avoid what's new. To be honest, everyone's missing the golden oldies."

Mr Wah Lee said fireworks didn't have to always be loud.

There were plenty of quieter options available, including the Birdcage, which spins and when finished turns into a Birdcage, or the Friendship Pagoda which turns into a tower.

For those wanting a big bang or bright lights, there were plenty of options too, including the Black Cat, which was "very bright and flashy".

"It flashes like a strobe so you can do your tai chi to it. If you did tai chi it would be absolutely wicked," he said.

Fireworks will be on sale until Monday.

SAFETY TIPS

Read and follow fireworks instructions.

Light in a wide open area.

Fireworks and alcohol/drugs are a dangerous combination.

Always let an adult light the fireworks.

Point fireworks at the stars, not other people or buildings.

Keep a bucket of water or a hose handy.

Keep pets inside.

Burns need water for 20 minutes.

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