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Police seize fireworks in Indiana County

GTRfireworks2070313
Guy Wathen | Tribune-Review
A sign advertises fireworks for sale at Big Ed’s Outlet in Blairsville on July 2, 2013.
GTRfireworks1070313
Guy Wathen | Tribune-Review
Boxes of fireworks seized by the Pennsylvania State Police sit at the Indiana barracks on July 2, 2013. The fireworks were seized from Big Ed’s Outlet in Blairsville on July 1.
GTRfireworks070313
Guy Wathen | Tribune-Review
Boxes of fireworks seized by the Pennsylvania State Police sit at the Indiana barracks on July 2, 2013. The fireworks were seized from Big Ed’s Outlet in Blairsville on July 1.

A state police fireworks raid at an Indiana County store on Monday netted thousands of illegal pyrotechnics.

Several shelves at Big Ed’s Outlet in Burrell Township were empty on Tuesday after undercover troopers purchased illegal items that were in open view and seized about $30,000 worth of fireworks at 5:45 p.m.

“They were actually on display there in the establishment,” said Trooper John Matchik, state police spokesman at the Indiana station.

Matchik said investigators plan to file charges, but he wasn’t sure who might be charged.

No charges had been filed by late Tuesday afternoon.

A sign proclaiming “Fireworks” hung outside Big Ed’s Outlet along Route 22 Tuesday afternoon.

Business owner Mark Gibson said he was under the impression that they were legal to sell as long as the customer had a municipal permit.

“The cops were very nice about it,” Gibson said. “If they say you’re wrong, you’re wrong.”

About 80 boxes of Liberty Bell Brand fireworks were seized and are being held as evidence.

The pyrotechnics included firecrackers, Roman candles and other airborne fireworks.

“I didn’t have them hidden, I had them out on my shelf,” Gibson said. “I honestly didn’t think we had done wrong.”

He said the store — which specializes in exotic glass tobacco pipes — sold the same fireworks last year without any problems.

“We didn’t sell M-80s,” Gibson said, referring to a class of large firecrackers illegal in Pennsylvania.

State law says that any fireworks that shoot into the air and explode are illegal for use by consumers, Matchik said.

“Our emphasis is absolutely on safety,” he said.

Aerial-based pyrotechnics are sold at facilities licensed by the state and can only be purchased by out-of-state residents with identification or Pennsylvania residents with a municipal permit, according to state police.

“Small, novelty-type” fireworks are the only pyrotechnics permitted for use in Pennsylvania, Matchik said.

Renatta Signorini is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-837-5374 or rsignorini@tribweb.com.

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