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Can You Light Fireworks In Your Backyard?

Here's what your state allows

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With the Fourth of July just around the corner, people across the country are stocking up on fireworks. Whether you like sparklers, fountains, or bottle rockets, you're probably wondering: Can I light fireworks in my backyard on the Fourth of July, or really any time during the year? The answer to that depends on what state you live in, and what kind of pyrotechnic show you have in mind.

Are Fireworks Legal In All US States?

“Backyard consumer fireworks are legal in 49 states plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico,” Julie L. Heckman, Executive Director of the American Pyrotechnics Association (APA), tells Romper in an email. “However, municipalities may have more stringent regulations, restrictions or prohibitions, so always check local ordinances before engaging in fireworks activities. For more information on state fireworks laws see this guide by the American Pyrotechnics Association.” Massachusetts bans the use of all consumer fireworks outright, and fireworks prohibitions vary for people in the other 49 states.

Can I Light Fireworks In My State? It Depends

Some states only prohibit certain types of fireworks. For example, in Ohio, fireworks can be bought there but not used there, unless they are considered novelty fireworks, according to the APA. A novelty firework is defined as "a device containing small amounts of pyrotechnic and/or explosive composition but does not fall under the category of consumer fireworks. Such devices produce limited visible or audible effects. Examples are snakes, tanks, poppers, and snappers,” according to the APA.

Other states are far less restrictive when it comes to putting on your own personal light show. Wyoming, for example, doesn't specifically prohibit any type of consumer firework, according to the APA. It does make sense that states with denser populations, like Massachusetts, would have stricter rules on fireworks than a state like Wyoming, which is the least populous state in the nation.

However, Massachusetts does allow what the APA calls “display” fireworks — as long as you have a permit, apply to the local fire chief at least 15 days before the display date, and have a certificate of liability insurance for $1,000,000 and bond for $15,000. You must also have a state license — which is valid for two years. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) website also noted that “display” fireworks are the fireworks used in shows and are “generally under the supervision of a trained pyrotechnician.” (But the kind you set off in your backyard on a whim are still prohibited in the state.)

Consumer Fireworks Safety

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No matter what your Independence Day plans are, it's important to practice firework safety. During the 2019 calendar year, an estimated 10,000 injuries related to fireworks were treated in U.S. emergency rooms, according to the 2019 Fireworks Annual Report released by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. The report notes that of those injuries, children under the age of 15 accounted for 36 percent of them.

If you are lighting fireworks in your backyard, then here are some safety tips from Heckman.

  • Always have a sober, responsible adult in charge of all fireworks activities.
  • Thoroughly read and follow all instructions for use.
  • Never allow children to handle fireworks, even sparklers, which can be dangerous if mishandled.
  • Keep spectators at a safe distance.
  • Have a bucket of water or working garden hose nearby.

With a little prep work, as well as a careful reading of the specific fireworks ordinances in your part of the world, it’s easy to enjoy a safe and festive backyard fireworks display this Fourth of July.

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