The Fourth of July is just around the corner and that means people across the country are trying to lock down their Independence Day plans. If you're hoping to spend the day at a public park — sparking the grill and sparklers alike — you might just be wondering if you can light fireworks in a public park, because you've already stocked up.
The answer is nuanced, since laws very from state to state and from park to park. However, as a general rule of thumb, most states prohibit the use of fireworks in public parks to prevent injuries as well as forest fires. To find out what your state's firework laws are, consult the American Pyrotechnic Association's (APA) state directory here, or call your local city hall. In 2018, consumer fireworks are allowed in various degrees in 49 states plus the District of Columbia, according to the APA. While consumer and novelty fireworks might be legal in a state, that doesn't mean they can be used in the state's parks.
For example, in my home state of Wisconsin, cylinder fountains, cone fountains, sparklers, and small smoke devices are legal, according to the APA, but if you light them off in a state park you're subject to a hefty fine. "A citation for illegal fireworks in a state park or forest can cost up to $200 and parents could be liable for the full costs of putting out a fire started by their children playing with or setting off fireworks," explained the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources website.
One place that fireworks are absolutely off-limits is in our National Park System. You'll be fined if you set off a firework but also if you so much as have one with you inside a park. "Obviously, you’re not allowed to detonate fireworks in a national park. However, the law also prohibits park visitors from having fireworks in their possession at any time during their stay. “Fireworks” in this instance refers to any type of combustible noise-maker — even sparklers and other ‘minor league’ models. And the law is pretty clear: no fireworks in your backpack, your tent, or your vehicle," explained The Clymb.
When you look at the number of fires caused by fireworks every year, it's no wonder that state's crack down on people using them in public spaces. "Fireworks start an average of 18,500 fires per year, including 1,300 structure fires, 300 vehicle fires, and 16,900 outside and other fires. These fires caused an average of three deaths, 40 civilian injuries, and an average of $43 million in direct property damage," according to the National Fire Protection Association.
Perhaps it's best to leave the pyrotechnics to the experts. Fortunately, there are some incredible firework displays in cities across the country, with major shows in Washington, D.C., Boston, New York, San Diego, and more. Even if you can't travel to see the dazzling light shows in person, these displays are nationally televised. In fact, some 6 million viewers tuned in to see the "Macy's 4th of July Fireworks Spectacular" in New York City last year on NBC, according to Variety.
One things for sure, the Fourth of July is about community. From small towns to the big cities, people will gather for Independence Day parades, cookouts, and, of course, firework displays. This year we'll be celebrating the 242nd anniversary of our country's Declaration of Independence. Though technically, we should be celebrating on July 2, when the Continental Congress voted 'Yes' to the colonies' independence, according to History.
"On that day, John Adams wrote to his wife Abigail that July 2 “will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival” and that the celebration should include “Pomp and Parade… Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other,” explained History.
Adams was close enough. Happy Fourth of July, everyone! May your holiday have plenty of pomp!