CHICAGO - Across the city, suburbs and the country, complaints about illegal fireworks are skyrocketing.
In Chicago, the number of calls to 911 show that people are already sick of the “DIY” fireworks crowd.
It is hard to believe the statistic released by the city of Chicago Wednesday: Compared to last year at this time, fireworks complaints are up more than 800 percent. Workers at places like Krazy Kaplans and Illinois state fireworks regulators both agree on the culprit this year: the coronavirus pandemic.
“People love their fireworks in Chicago,” said Greg Brown of Hyde Park.
So much so that the Office of Emergency Management and Communications has taken more than 7,000 9-1-1 calls for fireworks disturbances so far this year, compared to just 842 in 2019.
FOX 32 asked Brown how many fireworks he has been hearing this summer.
“A lot. It's been like every night now,” he said. “Every night and it's going to keep going on like that at least until the end of July.”
Brown was among the steady stream of Chicago fireworks shoppers who crossed the Indiana border to stock up -- largely because of the big municipal fireworks shows being canceled due to COVID-19.
“A lot of stuff ain't going down no more, but at least people can have fun on their own now,” Brown said.
The manager of Phantom Fireworks in Merrillville estimates business has tripled compared to last summer.
“We've seen a huge increase in demand. Just cause everyone's been cooped up in their house. Everyone wants to get out. Lot of cities have canceled their shows,” said Joseph Zaradich. “So people who weren't using fireworks before are purchasing fireworks on their own.”
“There's going to be a lot of shows that would normally take place on 4th of July that've been cancelled. Some of these individuals are taking it upon themselves to have their own types of fireworks displays at their residences,” said Michael Falter of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
That spells trouble, he says, not just because of noise complaints, but also because of dangerous explosives in the hands of amateurs.
“Over the years we've seen an increase of fireworks accidents and most generally it's been people who haven't been properly trained,” Falter said.
The city issued a reminder Wednesday that fireworks are illegal, including sparklers, which are known to burn at temperatures pushing 1,800 degrees and ignite clothing.
The Illinois Department of Natural Resources urges residents to leave fireworks in the hands of people who are licensed to set them off.