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New York, New Jersey Residents Head To Pennsylvania To Risk Buying Fireworks

EASTON, Pa. (CBSNewYork) -- Every Fourth of July, there is a mad rush to Pennsylvania to buy fireworks wherever it is legal to buy them.

It is not legal to bring fireworks back to New York or New Jersey. But as CBS 2's Christine Sloan reported, people still take the risk to get their fireworks fix.

Buying fireworks in Pennsylvania is easy and legal. Would-be buyers can find stores packed with all kinds of fireworks, and dump almost anything in their carts.

"I got the lock and load, and this 180-shot one," one man said. "It's buy one get one free."

All fireworks are illegal to sell or transport across state lines into New Jersey and New York. But two friends who did not want their names used did not care – they planned to take everything back to New Jersey.

The men said they do "not really" worry about crossing state lines, and they "try to hide it; put it in the trunk and put a blanket over it."

"Never been caught, thank God," another man said.

The fireworks buyers said the risk was worth it just to get their Fourth of July fix.

"We don't feel like we are doing anything illegal. We're not, like, trying to start fires with these things," one of the New Jersey men said. "We do them very responsible, with supervision, and we keep the correct distance."

In the parking lot of TNT Fireworks Supercenter, at 102 Cedarville Rd. in Easton, Pennsylvania, CBS 2 found a lot of New York and New Jersey drivers – some with children – putting fireworks into their cars.

One man dumped them into his trunk, and then put his camouflage jacket over it. It is all legal while they are still in Pennsylvania.

"Every identification is ID'd when they come in the door; when they come in, we print them a transportation permit for State of Pennsylvania, and it permits them to drive around with the fireworks for 24 hours," said Jeff Bell, manager of a Phantom Fireworks store in Easton.

Fireworks Seized By FDNY Fire Marshals
Fireworks seized by FDNY Fire Marshals in 2014 (Credit: FDNY Bureau of Fire Investigation)

Pennsylvania residents are themselves limited in what they can purchase. In fact, they can only shop in one aisle, buying only ground displays such as sparklers.

"They're basically not going to launch into the air," Bell said. "They're going to stay at 7 or 10 feet tall, change colors two or three times -- some of them crackle, some of them whistle."

While fireworks stores are strict inside, New Jersey State Police told CBS 2 they have units cracking down on some as they cross state lines.

In New York and New Jersey, the possession of fireworks is a misdemeanor offense. If you are caught stealing them with the intent to sell, it could cost you 18 months in jail and a $10,000 fine.

The NYPD also has been cracking down on illegal fireworks sales in advance of Independence Day. Police announced Friday that since January, dozens of people have been arrested and 125 cases of fireworks have been confiscated – at a value of nearly $25,000.

In addition to fireworks bust made by police officers, Fire Marshals have made 10 arrests and seized more than $15,000 worth of fireworks.

"FDNY Fire Marshals are out citywide aggressively searching for illegal fireworks to insure a safe and happy Independence Day for all New Yorkers," a department spokesperson said.

Fireworks in New York State have been banned since 1940.

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