AN INCREASE in illegal fireworks uncovered in Victoria this year has authorities bracing themselves for potential fires caused by backyard New Year's Eve parties.
WorkSafe Victoria has destroyed 731 kilograms of fireworks this year, a surge of more than 100 kilograms since 2020 levels.
Bendigo Police Acting Sergeant Wallis Murnane said illegal fireworks were a problem for the region and she urged people not to use them.
"Bendigo Police and other emergency service agencies do receive jobs relating to illegal fireworks from time-to-time,'' she said.
"We rely on information from members of the community to assist us to investigate this activity and anyone with information about the sale or use of illegal fireworks should contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000."
Bendigo Fireworks owner Peter Daley said professional pyrotechnics - designed to explode 200 metres in the air - had become prevalent on the black market.
"There are two main classes of fireworks - the shop goods that you used to be able to buy at the milkbar and the display ones which are the industrial type,'' he said.
"They can look the same and come in very similar boxes. We just ask people to stop and think about what they are doing.
"They are holding an explosive in their hands and most of the time they don't know what it will do.
"When you buy it off the black market it's a lot like Russian roulette - you don't know what you're buying or what you're dealing with."
Mr Daley said industrial fireworks were loaded into mortars to fire into the sky and should never be ignited at ground level.
"It's meant to be 200 metres in the air before it explodes. It's designed to be fired electronically,'' he said.
"All of our shows are started with a computer. I'm not standing next to it with a match. We keep people 80 metres away.
"If you have something going off on the ground that's designed to be in the air you are going to get fire. It's a recipe for disaster, especially in hot, dry and windy conditions."
CFA Chief Officer Jason Heffernan said firefighters had been called to more than a dozen fires and explosions across the state during the 2019 and 2020 at end of year celebrations.
"Every year, our volunteer firefighters have to leave their friends and families on New Year's Eve to attend unnecessary vegetation fires caused by illegal fireworks," he said.
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