Fourth of July Celebrations At Risk Due To Nationwide Fireworks Shortage

As the Fourth of July holiday get under way, a shortage of fireworks has been reported across the country amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which could potentially hamper some backyard celebrations.

In a statement Monday, the American Pyrotechnics Association (APA) said consumer fireworks retailers are reporting a nationwide shortage following shipping delays and supply chain issues, as well as record-breaking sales of fireworks last year.

The APA warned consumers can expect to pay more for their fireworks purchases this year due to the latest shortage and "substantial increase in transportation-related costs."

Why is there a fireworks shortage?

According to the APA, the U.S. consumer fireworks industry reported "unprecedented sales" last year during the outbreak. The APA said revenue nearly doubled from $1 billion in 2019 to $1.9 billion in 2020.

The record sales saw existing inventories exhausted and retailers are facing "numerous challenges preparing for this first post-pandemic major holiday," the APA said.

The shortage has been exacerbated by "extreme transportation delays with multi-modal shipments" in China.

The APA said the industry has seen delays in fireworks manufacturing in China as well as a shortage of containers to transport the fireworks. The ocean vessels on which the containers would be shipped have also reported limited capacity.

The APA explained: "Fireworks are transported by ocean vessel to the U.S. ports, then they move by railroad to rail yards near importers facilities, and then they move by truck to the distribution warehouses."

The executive director of the APA, Julie L. Heckman, stated: "Consumer fireworks, like many household consumer products, are caught up in the global supply chain disruption resulting from the pandemic."

Heckman said around 30 percent of the consumer fireworks required for this year's July 4 celebrations either "didn't make it out of China, are sitting on ocean vessels in the Pacific Ocean waiting to berth at the ports, or they've been sitting at the West Coast ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach for 9-12 weeks waiting to be put on the rail."

The executive director said it's unknown how long the existing supplies of fireworks will last and advised families to shop early to bag the best selections.

Firework prices to rise

Heckman noted fireworks importers have reported transportation costs for importing a container of products have more than doubled. "As such, fireworks retailers can't absorb that significant increase on their own, so consumers can expect a little less bang for the buck when purchasing fireworks for their backyard celebrations," said Heckman.

Despite the fireworks shortage, the APA forecasts backyard Fourth of July celebrations will increase this year, with many ready to celebrate not only Independence Day but also the beginnings of a post-pandemic era.

Last year, fireworks usage rose by 48 percent from the previous year. A record-breaking 404.5 million pounds of fireworks were used in 2020, compared with 273 million pounds in 2019, according to the APA.

According to a new report from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) released Tuesday, 2020 also saw a 50 percent increase in deaths and injuries from fireworks-related incidents from 2019.

CPSC Acting Chairman Robert Adler warned: "These tragic deaths and injuries are reminders of just how dangerous fireworks can be. Consumers should enjoy professional fireworks displays from a distance, and be extra vigilant when using consumer-type fireworks."

Fireworks in California on July 4, 2020.
Southern California residents sitting on the roofs of their vehicles on July 4, 2020 to watch the fireworks at the Los Alamitos Joint Forces Training Base in Los Alamitos, California. Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images