State Fire Marshal Encourages Safety When Using Legal Fireworks

In an effort to reduce the number of fires and fireworks-related injuries, the Division of State Fire Marshal is encouraging Ohioans to attend public fireworks displays hosted by local municipalities and licensed exhibitors this July 4th weekend.

“The best way for Ohioans to prevent fireworks injuries is to attend a licensed, professional fireworks exhibition,” said Interim State Fire Marshal Donald Cooper. “Keep in mind that even trick and novelty fireworks, like sparklers, are inherently dangerous and can cause serious injury.”

The only types of fireworks that can be legally purchased and discharged in Ohio are trick and novelty devices. These include items that smoke, sparkle, snap and snake. For those who choose to have their own display using these legal fireworks, Marshal Cooper encourages Ohioans to follow some important safety tips:

  • Handle and discharge trick and novelty devices only under adult supervision.
  • Appoint one adult to be in charge. This person should know the hazards of each type of firework being used.
  • Carefully read and follow the label directions on the trick and novelty device packaging.
  • Light only one sparkler at a time and hold it away from your body and others.
  • Sparkler wires, which can burn up to 1800 degrees, should immediately be placed in a bucket of water to avoid injury as they remain hot for a few minutes after burnout.
  • If someone gets burned, run cool water over the wound for two or three minutes and seek medical attention when necessary.

Other fireworks, like those sold at fireworks stores around Ohio, can be legally purchased in the state, but you must agree to take them out of Ohio to discharge. “You must be at least 18 years of age to buy items such as firecrackers and bottle rockets at the stores you see along the roadways of Ohio,” said Cooper. “But firing them off within state boundaries is prohibited.”

Under Ohio’s fireworks law, stiff penalties can be applied for the illegal possession or discharge of fireworks. It is a first-degree misdemeanor for non-licensed individuals to discharge fireworks in Ohio, to falsify an application when purchasing fireworks, or to possess them for more than 48 hours without taking them out-of-state. First-time offenders are subject to up to a $1,000 fine and six months imprisonment.

2010 Fireworks Frequently Asked Questions

What types of fireworks can be legally discharged in Ohio?

Trick and novelty fireworks (also known as exempted 1.4G fireworks) include items such as sparklers, snaps, glow snakes and smoke bombs. In general, these can be sold anywhere in Ohio and can be used anywhere in the state. However, some local communities have passed laws that prevent these from being sold or used.

What types of fireworks are illegal to discharge in Ohio without a license and permit?

1.3G Fireworks

These are also known as display or exhibitor fireworks and include items such as aerial shells that are fired from mortars. They can only be sold by a licensed manufacturer, wholesaler, or, under limited circumstances, out-of-state shippers. They can only be sold to a licensed manufacturer, wholesaler or exhibitor. These fireworks can only be discharged by a licensed exhibitor in accordance with Ohio laws regarding exhibitions, including a properly issued exhibition permit issued by the local fire and police departments.

1.4G Fireworks

These are commonly referred to as consumer fireworks. They include items such as firecrackers, bottle rockets, roman candles and fountains. Only a licensed manufacturer or wholesaler can sell these items. Anyone over the age of 18 may purchase these items, but must sign a form certifying that the purchaser will transport the fireworks outside the state of Ohio within 48 hours. These fireworks cannot be discharged legally in the state of Ohio.

How many fireworks stores are in Ohio?

There are 42 licensed wholesalers in Ohio. A licensed wholesaler may sell trick and novelty, 1.3G and 1.4G fireworks. In addition, there are 6 licensed manufacturers. They may manufacture and sell fireworks. In total, this makes 48 licensees who are authorized to sell fireworks in Ohio. There is currently a moratorium preventing the issuance of any new sales licenses.

What is a purchaser form?

A purchaser form is required to be completed when purchasing 1.4G fireworks. It requires the purchaser to certify that the purchaser will transport the fireworks out of state within 48 hours. Purchasers also acknowledge that they are responsible for any illegal use of the fireworks, including any damages caused by improper use and that making a false statement on the form is falsification under section 2921.13 of the Revised Code (a misdemeanor of the first degree). The purchaser’s copy of the completed purchaser form must accompany the purchased fireworks, be attached to an invoice itemizing the quantity of fireworks purchased and the amount of the sales transaction, and must be made available upon request by a law enforcement officer or fire authority.

Are there penalties for failing to follow Ohio’s fireworks laws?

Yes. Most first time violations of fireworks laws are first-degree misdemeanors, punishable by up to a $1,000 fine and six months in jail. Any illegal fireworks can also be confiscated by law enforcement authorities. Violations include falsifying the purchaser form, failing to complete the form, failing to transport fireworks out of state within the specified time period, and discharging 1.4G fireworks. In addition to criminal prosecution, licensed fireworks manufacturers and wholesalers are subject to administrative enforcement actions for violations.

What are the dangers of using fireworks?

All fireworks are inherently dangerous. Consumer fireworks (1.4G) cannot be discharged legally in Ohio. For those who choose to use novelty items, the State Fire Marshal urges extreme caution. While legal, these can still pose serious health problems, including severe burns, injuries to the hands, eyes and face, and even blindness or hearing loss. For example, sparklers burn at up to 1800°, hot enough to melt gold. The risk of severe burns is real. In addition, puncture-type injuries to an eye are not uncommon. Also, most fireworks require a source of ignition, creating other hazards associated with supplying children with matches or lighters. The safest way to enjoy fireworks is to attend a show by a licensed exhibitor.

How many injuries result from fireworks use?

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reports 7 fireworks-related deaths occurred in 2008, and an estimated 7,000 people were treated in hospital emergency rooms for fireworks- related injuries in 2008. Children 5 to 14 years old experienced an estimated 1,300 injuries, contributing to 26% of all fireworks-related injuries. Over the past two years, 53 firework investigations resulting in 14 related injuries and a total of 18 arrests have been conducted by SFM’s Fire & Explosion Investigation Bureau. There is no comprehensive fireworks-related injury database in Ohio.

How does the State Fire Marshal promote fireworks safety in Ohio?

The Department of Commerce actively reviews and works to increase fireworks safety, both in showrooms and for public exhibitions. The Department focuses on the regulation and education of the fireworks industry and those involved in the exhibition of fireworks.

The Division of State Fire Marshal operates a Fireworks Incident Team (FIT) to respond to the scene of any fireworks accident to investigate and assist local authorities. Investigations by FIT have led to both administrative and criminal action being taken against exhibitors who fail to follow the regulations.

What is the process for fireworks exhibitions?

A permit from local authorities is required for all exhibitions. That permit requires the signature of both the local fire chief and law enforcement official certifying the exhibition will be conducted in a safe manner as required by Ohio law. The permit specifies the date, time, location and various other parameters of how the exhibition will be executed. As part of the permit process, the law requires local authorities to inspect the exhibition site using a State Fire Marshal issued checklist of the shoot site before, during and after the exhibition. During the shoot, only registered employees and the certified fire safety official are allowed within the discharge site.

Only licensed fireworks exhibitors can perform fireworks exhibitions. There are approximately 519 exhibitors in Ohio. All employees of exhibitors must be registered with the State Fire Marshal. There are about 1,110 registered assistants of licensed exhibitors. Exhibitors must undergo six hours of training on fireworks laws and safety every three years, and must, in turn, relay that training to all employees annually.