The Virginia Department of Fire Programs says this Fourth of July holiday will be significantly different than in years’ past – almost all permitted professional fireworks shows have been cancelled. As a result, a surge in illegal fireworks may be used in the Commonwealth.
“COVID-19 has covered many of our pastimes and traditions with a wet blanket," said VDFP Executive Director Michael Reilly. "We anticipate that this Fourth of July, Virginians will take to their own devices to celebrate the holiday in their backyards or neighborhoods. On top of limited fireworks displays, we’re dealing with limitations in how we assemble. This formula makes celebrating the Fourth of July holiday logistically complicated.”
In 2019, the State Fire Marshal's Office confiscated approximately 10,000 illegal fireworks that were either sold, used or in possession. This is five times the number of illegal fireworks confiscated in 2018.
In general, any firework that explodes, moves on the ground or in the air, or shoots a projectile is illegal.
“Fire officials stress the message of ‘leaving fireworks to the professionals’ because the professionals obtain permits with the State Fire Marshal’s Office or within their respective localities,” said VDFP Assistant State Fire Marshal of Special Operations Billy Hux. “Fire officials vet each request and host for the proper use of permissible fireworks, safety factors, and capabilities. This is for the sake of public protection. Confiscation of nonpermissible fireworks is how we prevent the worst from happening to individuals and property.”
Only permissible fireworks, as defined in the Code of Virginia, can be legally sold, possessed or used within the Commonwealth. Violations can be prosecuted as a Class I Misdemeanor, punishable by a fine not to exceed $2,500 and/or up to one year in jail.
If you do use permissible fireworks, follow these important safety precautions:
● Check local ordinances on the use of fireworks.
● Fireworks can only be used on private property with the consent of the owner.
● Never use fireworks indoors.
● Never use fireworks while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
● Never allow children to use fireworks.
● Ensure adequate clearance from people, buildings and combustible material.
● Have a garden hose or other water source readily available in case of fire.
● Soak spent fireworks in water before placing them in the trash.
● Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
● Never hold the fireworks in your hands while lighting them.
● Never point fireworks at a person.