Fireworks will soon herald the U.S.A.’s Independence Day. The dazzling patterns of lights and roar of thunder from the rockets’ red glare and the bombs bursting in air remind us of the battles that led to the creation of the U.S.A. on the Fourth of July over 240 years ago. Unfortunately, Ohioans who indulge in illegal fireworks displays may also get a taste of just how bloody and painful those battles were.
The Ohio revised code state that only “novelty and trick” fireworks may be used by unlicensed individuals in the state of Ohio. Such devices like sparklers, smoke bombs, and “glow worms” can easily be purchased in places like grocery and big box stores. Larger consumer-grade fireworks like bottle rockets and mortars may be purchased in Ohio at fireworks retailers, but only used by licensed professionals or taken out of state.
The excitement of the season can make it easy to forget that fireworks are not just beautiful, but are powerful explosives that can be unpredictable and should be treated with respect.
There are inherent risks with using fireworks. Even legal fireworks items can be dangerous, especially for young children without adult supervision. Sparklers alone can burn hot enough to melt some metals.
Burns, loss of hearing, blindness, loss of body parts, and other injuries can result from both setting off fireworks and watching them from an unsafe distance. The risk of injury is dramatically increased when untrained individuals use consumer-grade fireworks.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reported in 2015 (the latest date for which data is available):
Fireworks devices were involved in an estimated 11,900 injuries treated in U.S. hospital emergency rooms; an estimated 8,000 of those visits happened during the one-month period surrounding the Fourth of July, an average of 258 ER visits a day.
An average of 26% of fireworks injuries were to children under age 15.
Sparklers accounted for 1,900 injuries; firecrackers caused 1,200 injuries.
Over 1,300 injuries were to the eyes, including lacerations, contusions, burns, and blindness.
There were also 11 fireworks-related deaths in 2015.
Individuals who violate Ohio’s fireworks law also run the risk of criminal penalties. First time offenders are normally charged with a first-degree misdemeanor. If they plead guilty or are convicted, they can be sentenced to up to six months in jail and fined up to $1,000. Subsequent convictions are fifth-degree felonies and potentially punishable by a prison term of up to one year.
As far as prosecuting offenders, the Clark County Sheriff’s office states: “The sheriff’s wants citizens to enjoy the Fourth of July holiday, but do it safely. Fireworks use by non-licensed individuals is illegal in the State of Ohio and we plan to uphold our state’s law.”
Citizens who become short-term pyromaniacs around Independence Day may enroll in the short State Fire Marshall’s Fireworks training class. The free class and an FBI background check are required to get the local licenses needed to legally, and safely, set off fireworks displays.
Hundreds of Ohio’s municipalities host exciting fireworks displays for citizens to enjoy; some are even accompanied by festivals. Be safe this holiday and head to one of those shows to get a big, legal, bang out of the Fourth of July!
Other information about the Fireworks Training class and guidelines can be found under FAQ at: http://www.com.ohio.gov/documents/fire_fireworksredbook.pdf.