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2 Investigators: Fireworks Illegal, But Attainable In Chicago

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This is one of the illegal fireworks CBS 2 obtained in an undercover investigation. (CBS)

This is one of the illegal fireworks CBS 2 obtained in an undercover investigation. (CBS)

Pam Zekman Pam Zekman
Pulitzer-prize winning reporter Pam Zekman serves on CBS 2 Chicago’s...
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CHICAGO (CBS) — Just about all kinds of fireworks are illegal to sell, possess, and shoot off in Chicago. But anyone who has spent a 4th of July in the city knows there are plenty of people breaking the law.

CBS 2′s Investigator Pam Zekman found some of those illegal fireworks can be found for sale right within the city.

“They’re very dangerous to the public, they can inflict harm, burns, blind people, or start fires in structures,” Chicago Deputy Fire Commissioner Richard C. Ford II says.

Yet the CBS 2 Investigative Team found fireworks being openly sold at three stores in one of Chicago’s best known neighborhoods, Chinatown.

At the first location, undercover producer Dan Blom was able to purchase a selection of showering fountains and other ground-based fireworks.

In addition to the fireworks on display at the front counter, the clerk had even more illegal fireworks in a storage room in the back of the store.  She told Blom to come back to the store at a later date when she expected to receive another shipment of illegal fireworks, including bottle rockets and ground rockets.

When he returned, she offered the CBS 2 producer a big box full of assorted fireworks for $50.  He selected a smaller sampling of the rockets and left.

Confronted by Zekman about the sale and whether she knew it was illegal, the clerk replied: “I don’t know. I have to call the owner.”

The owner never showed up but the two workers at the store did turn off the lights and temporarily close the store.

At another store, Blom was able to purchase more illegal fireworks.

The store clerk denied selling them. “Maybe you get it from Walmart,” she told Zekman.

If you get caught buying or selling fireworks in Chicago, you could face a fine of up to $500 per violation.

Deputy Commissioner Ford says people should go to approved public shows rather than trying to purchase or use illegal fireworks.

“The 4th of July is not a happy time for us,” he says. “We understand that it’s a time of celebration, but we also understand that we’re going to run into some situations where we’re going to have people maimed, people harmed.”

Last year, 196 people were injured by fireworks in Illinois, according to the Illinois State Fire Marshal.  Of those, 44 percent involved kids 16 years or younger.

The fireworks CBS 2 obtained were set off by the Chicago Fire Department.

A spokeswoman for Chicago police said the department executed 39 seizures of fireworks over the last 18 months, including $20,000 worth last Friday. The police have made a dozen arrests during that time and many others received tickets for violating the city law.

Chicago police checked out the Chinatown stores CBS 2 visited and were told by employees that someone from the media told them it was illegal to sell the fireworks and so they got rid of them. None were found.