Monday, June 29, 2015

Have a Legal and Safe Independence Day

The Continental Congress voted for independence on July 2, 1776, and formally adopted the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, which is the date we celebrate American Independence.  However, the ability of private consumers [you know, those of us folks who are the ones celebrating] to light fireworks on their own property is either forbidden or highly regulated in all 50 states.

Forbidden - Delaware, Massachusetts, and New Jersey.

Very Limited - allow only sparklers and/or novelty fireworks - Arizona, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Ohio, Vermont.

Just this year, 2015, New York moved from the forbidden list to the limited list and has allowed counties to permit ground-based and hand-held fireworks only.  About half of the state's 62 counties now allow "sparklers."  New York City does not allow private use of fireworks.

The rest of the states allow private consumers to light some or all fireworks.  BUT DON'T STOP THERE!

California has 482 incorporated cities.  This does not include towns and other areas which are considered part of their county and are not independent cities.

In California, which allows only "safe and sane" fireworks for private citizens, only 296 cities in the entire state allow fireworks outside of large public displays -
Cities in CA where private citizens can light fireworks

Here is a comprehensive page about CA criminal law related to fireworks -
Are fireworks legal in CA?

In California, and probably most other states, your local stands where consumers can purchase fireworks are generally operated by non-profit and other organizations.  For some of these organizations, the sales of fireworks provides much of their annual operating budget.

Safety factors - Your average sparkler, considered the most benign of fireworks, burns at 1200 to 2000 degrees F.

Here's a scary quote from the Washington Post from 2014:

"About 11,400 people were treated at hospital emergency rooms for fireworks-related injuries last summer [2013], according to CPSC estimates, with about 65 percent believed to have occurred from June 21 to July 21. More than half the injuries were burns, and most involved the head, hands, fingers and legs. An estimated 40 percent of those injured were children younger than 15 years old, the CPSC said."

In addition to the potential for personal injury, fireworks can cause significant property damage.  This is why most states prohibit private consumers from lighting anything other than ground-based and hand-held fireworks.  When I was younger, a friend's house burned to the ground because of a bottle rocket which landed on her roof.

Right now, California is in the middle of a major drought requiring all residents to limit their use of water, especially for outdoor watering.  And we've already had more than 15 brush fires this season, which has only just begun.

My city doesn't allow private citizens to light fireworks, so my family attends the city's professional display.  Occasionally we then proceed to a friend's house where private fireworks are allowed, to light cones and sparklers in the street.

Whatever you do to celebrate, please have fun and BE SAFE.  Celebrating American independence in the hospital or in jail is NOT a happy thought.

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