As Fireworks Boom Throughout Pittsburgh Area, PTSD Sufferers And Pets Left To Cope

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Pittsburgh police have seen such a dramatic surge in fireworks complaints since the beginning of June.

In response, the city has created a fireworks task force to address the problem.


Pittsburgh Public Safety says there have been 137 fireworks complaints for the first three weeks of June, compared to just 28 over the same span last year.


That’s nearly a 400 percent increase.


With the coronavirus pandemic canceling many summer events, including fireworks shows, many people are setting fireworks off themselves.


When someone unexpectedly hears fireworks, it can be a source of stress, especially if they’re suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.


“The biggest thing about fireworks is often the unpredictability of them,” said Sarah Souri, a Wexford-based therapist.


PTSD develops in some people who experience a shocking or dangerous event, like fighting in a war or being in a car accident.


She says Fourth of July fireworks are typically expected, but the loud bang of a firework when it’s not expected can cause people to feel like they’re back in the situation that caused their initial trauma.


“That’s such a big part of PTSD, is feeling startled and something unexpected,” Souri said.


Pets can also be easily startled by fireworks.


“She can’t stand it when they go off in our neighborhood,” said dog owner Mark Chambers.


According to the Humane Society, fireworks can become so overwhelming for pets that they run away from home.


“Her tail goes between her legs and she just shuts down,” James Spirk says of his dog.


While not all pets have that type of reaction, the Humane Society recommends keeping pets inside with the TV or music on if fireworks are nearby.


For those suffering from PTSD, Souri recommends mindfulness exercises and seeking professional help.


“Saying, ‘I’m in a safe place, I’m at home, I’m OK,’ sometimes that might be enough to prep yourself,” she said.


City of Pittsburgh law prohibits fireworks within 150 feet of any structure.


Pittsburgh Public Safety says that means fireworks not done professionally that are set off within city limits are almost never legal.


There are several places still putting on fireworks shows for this year’s Fourth of July, click here for the growing list.