Daughter of house fire victims fighting bill

Published 12:27 am Sunday, December 14, 2014

ROME TOWNSHIP — The daughter of a couple who died in a house fire allegedly started by the discharging of illegal fireworks has taken her battle to the Ohio Statehouse.

Trisha Holsinger, of South Point, has been actively involved in trying to stop the passage of House Bill 386, which would make certain fireworks legal. It would allow the sale of high-powered fireworks in the state everyday of the year as well as make it legal to use them.

Right now those fireworks can only be purchased three times a year and the buyer must transport them out of the state within 48 hours.

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“I spoke against the bill to the Laboring Commerce Committee for the Senate last Tuesday,” Holsinger said. “Several people spoke against the bill.”

Along with Holsinger, fire chiefs from Upper Arlington, a doctor from the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, Sherry Williams from the National Association of the Blind and family members who lost a son because of a firework accident spoke opposing passage of the bill.

This past July 4 a house fire led to the deaths of Holsinger’s parents, Leo and Betty Sayre of Rome Township.

First a brush fire started in a wheelbarrow in the couple’s backyard, where the casing of an illegal high-powered firework was later found by a Rome Township volunteer firefighters.

By 1 a.m., the house had caught on fire.

“When my father was outside trying to take care of the fire in the backyard, he noticed the house was on fire,” Holsinger, said. “He ran back into the house to get my mother, who had Parkinson’s knowing he would have to carry her. They didn’t make it out.”

Ohio fireworks laws allow the sale of high-powered fireworks such as firecrackers, bottle rockets, Roman candles and fountains from a licensed manufacturer or wholesaler to those 18 and older. If the customer lives in Ohio, an agreement must be signed that says they will transport the fireworks out of the state within the specified time frame.

Sales of those are only available three times a year, around Labor Day, Memorial Day and July 4th. Currently novelty fireworks that do not go up in the air are the only ones that can be legally used in the state.

“Phantom fireworks and other firework vendors from throughout the state were there to support the bill,” Holsinger said. “They proposed that the tax revenue generated from the sale of fireworks would be used for education, local fire departments and pamphlets on fireworks that would be given out, although they didn’t have the numbers and were very contradicting.”

The bill will be voted on in the House on Tuesday.

“I’m going to vote no on that bill,” Rep Ryan Smith, R-93, said. “I don’t think we need to legalize fireworks. With everything that has happened just in this area, I can’t support the fireworks bill.”

If the bill gets through the House, it will go to the governor’s office.

“Senator (Shannon) Jones (R-7) commended me for speaking on behalf of my parents,” Holsinger said. “There are things that I just can’t get out of my mind. It’s the least I could do.”