Fireworks are common over 4th of July holiday—but so are injuries and destruction of property because of them.
Tuesday, July 4th 2017 found Satellite Beach, Florida firefighters trying to contain a blaze at one local home, and some eyewitnesses are blaming fireworks for for starting it.
The fire appeared to be put out by about 10PM local time however firefighters had to return early the next morning after more hot spots flared. Officials announced that the home sustained heavy damage, and indeed might be a total loss. Fortunately, an elderly woman escaped the home, so the situation could have been worse.
Neighbor John A. Smith said he thinks that professional grade fireworks should be banned in residential areas. “I don’t think they should allow it in these neighborhoods, cause it can get out of control like it did last night,” said Smith. “I mean, it was like a war zone, ‘Boom, boom, boom.”
More amazing still is that most of the fireworks seen in Florida over July 4th—the ones that aren’t part of a professional display, anyway—are completely illegal. Fireworks approved for consumer use are extremely limited, including sparklers, “glow worms” which burn in color but don’t explode, and small fireworks that emit colored smoke only.
Here is a full list, including brand names, from the Florida State Fire Marshall.
A good rule of thumb is this:
If it explodes, or flies, or lifts off, you are prohibited from lighting it in Florida. No firecrackers, no bottle rockets, no roman candles, no sky lanterns. Florida Statute 791 is explicit about these fireworks.
How Do Consumers get These Illegal Fireworks?
There is a loophole in the Florida law which allows consumers to buy them, as long as they state they intend to use the fireworks for lawful purposes. Certain uses in agriculture and in mining are permitted, and as long as a consumer fills out a form stating their use will be lawful, the fireworks can be sold.
However, if the actual use differs from the signed statement? Potential legal nightmare.
Injury and Property Damage
The National Fire Protection Association states that fireworks start 18,500 fires a year, at a cost of approximately $43 million in property damage. Worse are the nearly 12,000 people seen in an ER for fireworks-related injuries each year. Roughly 25% of those victims are younger than the age of 15.
There are several good tips on proper handling from the Fireworks Safety Organization. But consumers should realize they can be liable for the damage caused by their fireworks, especially if handled improperly:
- Failure to read and follow warnings on packaging;
- Lighting of several fireworks simultaneously;
- Lighting fireworks while under the influence;
- Using homemade or illegal fireworks such as M-80s.
Celebrating on a holiday can be a lot of fun. But choosing to celebrate safely can ensure that the fun continues past the holiday—rather than creating problems that will have to be dealt with in court.
Have you or a loved one been injured by fireworks in Florida?
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