SHERIFF'S CORNER: A review of fireworks laws
So, in a few days it will be Independence Day, better known as the Fourth of July. With that comes the many firework displays both public and private. Michigan went through a legal overhaul of what was acceptable to "let off" a few years back. This was a big change to what was permitted in the past.
Admittedly, I remember growing up and taking the annual family trip to State Line Fireworks in Indiana to get the "good ones." This was similar to the monthly Indiana beer run. I guess Indiana was the place to get all the fun stuff. I also remember the blow torch (acetylene and oxygen) balloon bombs, and the "dry ice" 2-litre bombs.
So, as a disclaimer, I was just a kid doing what I was told. I think that is why I relate to people better, because my family was known to fracture a law a time or two. But, we all grow up and have to follow the rules at some point.
In this edition of the "Sheriff Corner," I will discuss and review the laws pertaining to fireworks.
Many scholars believe that fireworks originally were developed in 200 BC in ancient China. The first "firecrackers" were bamboo stalks that would explode when thrown into a fire due to the overheating of the air pockets in the bamboo. The Chinese believed these natural "firecrackers" would ward off evil spirits.
Around 700 BC, the Chinese accidentally mixed saltpeter (or potassium nitrate) with sulfur and charcoal, and accidentally stumbled upon the crude chemical recipe for gunpowder.
In the 10th century, the Chinese had learned that the fireworks could be attached to arrows, creating crude bombs.
By the 12th century, they had learned how to fire the explosives into the air, thus creating the first aerial firework displays.
If you have visited the local fireworks stand, you can see the many different displays and options of present day fireworks. However, the basics are pretty much the same as they were centuries ago.
FIREWORKS SAFETY ACT
The Fireworks Safety Act of 2012 made the sale, use and possession of "consumer fireworks" legal in Michigan. Consumer fireworks are those designed to produce visible and/or audible effects by combustion. Here are the most common definitions:
• Consumer fireworks: Roman candles, Bottle rockets, Missile type rockets, Aerials, Reloadable shell devices, Firecrackers, Helicopter/aerial spinners, Single tube device with report
• Novelty items: Sparklers, Snaps, Poppers, Snakes
• Low impact fireworks: Ground sparkling devices, Ground-based or handheld sparklers, Ground sparkling devices, Smoke devices
The law was further amended in 2018 to allow local units of government the ability to adopt local ordinances prohibiting the use of fireworks. Even if a local municipality chooses to restrict fireworks within their jurisdiction by adopting a local ordinance, the state law REQUIRES that fireworks must be allowed on the following days, after 11 a.m.:
• Dec. 31 until 1 a.m. Jan. 1
• The Saturday and Sunday before Memorial Day, until 11:45 p.m.
• June 29 to July 4, until 11:45 p.m.
• July 5, if it falls on a Friday or Saturday, until 11:45 p.m.
• The Saturday and Sunday before Labor Day, until 11:45 p.m.
Now, remember ... these dates cannot be changed. These only become relevant if there is a local ordinance prohibiting fireworks. So, the way it stands, people are allowed to ignite fireworks pretty much whenever they want, regardless of time of day. To my knowledge, there are no townships that prohibit fireworks year-round.
A question that comes up quite often is: "Are fireworks allowed during a burn ban?"
In general, they do not run hand in hand. This means that you are still allowed to ignite fireworks even if there is a burn ban in effect. However, there is a rare circumstance when a burn ban can prohibit firework usage.
If the DNR fire division elevates fire conditions to 1) extreme; or 2) very high; for 72 consecutive hours, the commanding fire officer (fire chief) of a city, village, township, or county, in consultation with the DNR, can enforce a no burning restriction that includes a ban on consumer fireworks.
If instituted, the commanding fire officer shall ensure that adequate notice of the restriction is provided to the public; and, not more than 24 hours after the fire condition is downgraded, the commanding fire officer shall lift the restriction and inform the public in the same manner that the restriction was announced or made known to the public.
You are also not allowed to be drunk when setting off fireworks.
28.462(3) states: "An individual shall not discharge, ignite, or use consumer fireworks or low-impact fireworks while under the influence of alcoholic liquor, a controlled substance, or a combination of alcoholic liquor and a controlled substance. A person that violates this subsection is responsible for a state civil infraction..."
Also, make sure you are setting off fireworks on your own property or have permission to set them off on property of another. Most public property places are prohibited.
28.462 (1) states: "A person shall not ignite, discharge, or use consumer fireworks on public property, school property, church property, or the property of another person without that organization's or person's express permission to use those fireworks on those premises."
HELPFUL SAFETY TIPS
Here are some helpful tips from the State Fire Marshall:
• Follow the manufacturer's directions.
• Have an adult supervise fireworks activities, including sparklers.
• Light fireworks one at a time, then immediately back away to a safe distance.
• Keep people and pets out of range before lighting fireworks.
• Light fireworks outdoors on a driveway or other paved surface at least 25 feet away from houses and highly flammable materials such as dry grass or mulch.
• Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of fire or other mishap.
• Douse spent fireworks in a bucket of water before discarding them.
• Buy fireworks packaged in brown paper or use unlabeled fireworks - they are for professional use only.
• Experiment with or make your own fireworks.
• Allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks.
• Place any part of your body directly over a fireworks device when lighting the fuse.
• Try to re-light "duds" or pick up fireworks that have not ignited fully. (Rather, wait 15 to 20 minutes and then soak it in a bucket of water.)
• Point or throw fireworks at other people.
• Carry fireworks in a pocket or shoot them off in metal or glass containers.
Even though things are legal, doesn't mean you have to do it. Remember there are those who may be combat vets, PTSD as well as people with dogs who are sensitive to loud noises. Try to be courteous of your neighbors and only set off fireworks at a reasonable time of the day.
This information is provided to you for clarification of specific laws, and not legal advice. This is not to be construed as a personal opinion, agreement or disagreement of any specific law. If you have any questions on any specific topic, you can always email me your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.