Officials: play it safe when it comes to fireworks

FireworksState safety and law enforcement officials are reminding citizens to follow the law and safety recommendations when enjoying fireworks displays during Fourth of July celebrations.

“The best way to safely enjoy fireworks is by viewing the large, professionally-run displays enjoyed in many communities,” said State Fire Commissioner Ed Mann. “If you do decide to use the smaller fireworks that Pennsylvanians are allowed to use, do so with safety as your priority.”

Pennsylvania law allows consumers to use only small “novelty” fireworks, such as sparklers and trick noise makers. These fireworks can be sold by retail establishments with valid permits.

State Police Commissioner Frank Noonan also warned that although fireworks are a holiday tradition, they are dangerous and their use is strictly limited by state law.

“The only fireworks permitted for the public’s use are sparklers and devices containing extremely small amounts of powder,” Noonan said.  He stressed that items such as firecrackers, Roman candles, cherry bombs and M-80s are illegal.

“Fireworks can cap off a great Independence Day with friends and family but only when purchased and used legally,” said Agriculture Secretary George Greig. “Stay safe and only buy fireworks from reputable in-state dealers.”

All display fireworks that are shot into the air and burst into a large, colorful display, like those seen at organized celebrations and sporting events, are prohibited for use by consumers. These aerial-based fireworks are sold at facilities licensed by the state Department of Agriculture and may be purchased only by out-of-state residents with identification or in-state residents with a municipal permit.

Mann shared the following safety tips from the National Council on Fireworks Safety:

• Fireworks should only be used outdoors.
• Always have water nearby.
• Only use fireworks as intended. Do not try to alter or combine them.
• Never relight a “dud” firework. Wait 20 minutes and then soak it in a bucket of water prior to disposal.
• Use common sense. Anyone igniting fireworks should wear safety glasses, and spectators should stay a safe distance away.
• Alcohol and fireworks do not mix.
• Never use homemade fireworks or illegal explosives – illegal fireworks should be reported to local law enforcement.
• Only persons over the age of 12 should be allowed to handle sparklers of any type. Sparklers should only be used under close adult supervision.
• Always remain standing and at least six feet from others while using sparklers.
• Always wear closed-toe shoes when using sparklers.
• Never hand a lighted sparkler to another person.
• Never hold or light more than one sparkler at a time.
• Sparkler wires and sticks remain hot long after the flame has gone out.  Be sure to drop the spent sparkler directly into a bucket of water.

For more information on Pennsylvania laws regarding fireworks, please visit the Pennsylvania State Police web site, and click on “Frequently Asked Questions about Fireworks.”

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