A warning by Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service and Merseyside Police has been issued about the dangers of bangers and of selling fireworks illegally.

Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service officers working in FIRST (Firework Incident Research Safety Team) alongside police officers have seized more than 10,000 illegal fireworks since 2010.

Retailers who have a special licence from Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service can only sell fireworks in Merseyside between October 15 and November 10.

FIRST, which sees police officers working alongside Fire and Rescue Service officers, have helped convict six people since August 2011 for offences including selling fireworks illegally and poor storage of fireworks.

Members of FIRST also carry out test purchases to uncover those breaking the law by selling fireworks without a licence. Meanwhile colleagues in Trading Standards target retailers who sell fireworks to under-age children, another offence.

James Berry, a Group Manager in Prevention and Protection at Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service who is leading the bonfire strategy this year, said: “Bangers are illegal and we have seen incidents in Merseyside where young people have had their fingers blown off by the very unpredictable behaviour of bangers. Those who sell illegal fireworks, particularly to young people, could be responsible for leaving them blinded or with missing fingers from misuse.

“It is illegal to sell fireworks out of the back of a van, or from a house or to throw them in the street. Members of the FIRST team are taking firework enforcement steps to ensure retailers are not selling any bangers. Fire Officers also do joint inspections with Trading Standards to ensure that only businesses who are registered to sell fireworks by Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service.”

Officers from the FIRST team have held their annual fireworks forum for retailers. Retailers in Merseyside were invited to the free event at the Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service headquarters in Bootle and given advice and information on firework storage and other rules and legislation to ensure they do not commit offences.

Detective Constable Di Rourke from FIRST, which was established eight years ago, said: “The response from retailers has been very encouraging and if the number of retailers who came to the forum is anything to go by then the majority are taking their responsibilities very seriously. Businesses from as small as your local corner shop right up to the big, well-known names have taken the opportunity to ask us about the currently legislation, who they can and can’t sell to, how to safely store their stock and the knock-on effect of selling fireworks that could end up in the hands of young people. Now that everyone knows their responsibilties, there can be no excuses if we catch anyone breaking the law.”

Fire Marshal Mark Schuler, who is based at Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service and works with the FIRST team, said: “We gather evidence working with the FIRST team to ensure people answer for their actions. In August a man was fined more than £600 after a prosecution under the Manufacture and Storage of Explosives Regulations. The retailer was breaching the rules and operating in a dangerous way putting lives and property in jeopardy by failing to store fireworks correctly. He was also failing to ensure the building was safe as outlined in the regulations

“This goes to show the consequences of failing to comply with the laws and legislations around fireworks.”

Superintendent Rowley Moore of Merseyside Police said: “Anti-social behaviour throughout this period will not be tolerated and anyone suffering from it should call us so that we can take action. Only a small minority cause problems and there will be plenty of organised events and activities going on across Merseyside for young people to enjoy in safety. The police, fire service and local councils have details on their websites and I would encourage parents to actively get involved with their children. I would also warn anyone thinking of selling fireworks illegally to think again. Selling fireworks without a licence and selling fireworks that are counterfeit are both criminal offences and highly irresponsible and we will be out in force in the coming weeks to crack down on this problem.”

The warning was issued as Two young footballers have backed calls by firefighters to make this year’s bonfire period safe and enjoyable for people in Merseyside as fireworks go on sale.

Liverpool FC U21 goalkeeper Jamie Stephens and Liverpool FC Academy player Nathan Quirk met Red Watch firefighters from Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service to help highlight safety tips and advice for the bonfire period.

Jamie Stephens said: “Following the safety advice and attending organised public firework displays and bonfires is the best thing to do where you can enjoy this time of year and the great atmosphere. It’s what I will be doing. Help the firefighters and keep anti-social behaviour to a minimum this year and help your community stay safe from fire.”

Liverpool FC Academy player Nathan Quirk said: “Throwing fireworks or playing with them is a sure way of injuring yourself and possibly your friends or family. Take responsibility and make a difference in your community this bonfire period. Our firefighters in Merseyside have to deal with fires involving rubbish at this time of year – don’t waste their time.”

• All bangers were made illegal by the Fireworks (Safety) Regulations 1997. This was largely due to the high numbers of injuries being reported to youngsters who were able to acquire these ‘pocket money’ fireworks cheaply. Not only are all bangers now illegal, there are large quantities out there still that are fake and do not conform with British standards. These bangers are particularly dangerous.
• As a result of this any retailer who is caught selling bangers may be liable on summary conviction to 6 months imprisonment or a fine not exceeding £5,000 or both.
• This is enforced by the Trading Standards Authority under the Consumer Protection Act 1987.

Photo above shows Liverpool FC U21 goalkeeper Jamie Stephens on the left with Watch Manager Phil Hart and Liverpool FC Academy player Nathan Quirk on the right. LFC Incert Photo copyright of Tony Thomas/Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service.

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