Nothing says “Happy Birthday, America” like a night sky full of colorful fireworks, but there are some things you should know before you take a trip to a local fireworks store
Under Florida law, only novelty-type fireworks are legal for consumer usage, and anything that flies in the air or explodes is illegal. The law does allow consumers to purchase fireworks for agricultural purposes, such as frightening birds from farms and fish hatcheries, but purchasers must have a permit to use them.
Some fireworks stores allow customers to sign a waiver saying they are using the fireworks for agriculture purposes to purchase them. A customer still can face a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine if caught using fireworks illegally. Those travelling into our area from out of state are reminded by billboards to make a” last stop” for legal fireworks before you enter Florida. What they don’t advertise however, is that many of the devices sold are not legal in our state.
“Leave the fireworks to adults, read all the precautions and safety warnings on packages before you go embarking in your backyard with your fireworks,” says SWFD Fire Marshal, Sammy Sanchez. Extra caution and consideration should be used on our beaches as there are many spectators young and old who may be in close proximity or an unfortunate recipient of discharged fireworks. Several South Walton businesses and residences have experienced damage from the fireworks over the last few July 4th holidays.
In 2009, there were 9,000 fireworks-related injuries that were treated in U.S. emergency departments, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s annual report. In 2008, sparklers, fountains, and novelties alone accounted for 32 percent of the fireworks injuries, and 40 percent of people injured by fireworks were younger than 15.
“One kid has a sparkler and he throws it down. Then his friend walks by and steps on it. That’s hot steel burning at over 1,200 F,” Sanchez said. “It’s what happens after they throw it down … it still burns for a couple of minutes.”
Fire Chief Rick Talbert, says to use common sense and obey local laws and be considerate of others
and their property. Other Northwest Florida fire officials agree.
“Even though it has been raining recently, there are still dry areas. Be careful,” says Sean Hughes, Deputy Fire Chief and the Fire District’s public information officer. “Fireworks are a tradition on the Fourth of July and we encourage people to participate in the public displays here in South Walton. They are a lot of fun.”
If you or your family has any questions concerning fireworks and their safe usage, please contact the South Walton Fire District at 850-267-1298, or visit our website at www.swfd.org