Few events are more evocative of a midsummer night than a fireworks show. After all, fireworks are a major part of any 4th of July celebration, and they can be fun at other outdoor gatherings too. For many people, enjoying fireworks means going to a public display and sprawling on the grass with hundreds of other spectators. But others prefer to enjoy at least some of their fireworks at home.
California has some of the strictest fireworks laws in the country, with nearly all types of fireworks designated as illegal for private use by unlicensed individuals. The list of prohibited fireworks is extensive (you can see the complete list here), and includes things like firecrackers, skyrockets, Roman candles, chasers (fireworks that move around on the ground) and even sparklers longer than 10 inches or wider than ¼ inch. On top of those state regulations, there are plenty of local ordinances with even greater restrictions.
Why so many restrictions – even on seemingly “innocent” fireworks like firecrackers and sparklers? California’s laws were initially enacted in 1973, and like many other states with stringent laws, they were enacted in response to reports of serious injuries and even deaths of individuals using the products or bystanders in the nearby area. Even a sparkler can cause serious burns, and the tiny sparks and white-hot metal core can start fires that can cause substantial property damage, not to mention personal injury.
If you do manage to find a fireworks product that’s legal under state or local regulations, the next step is to use it safely:
- Make sure everyone remains a safe distance from the fireworks being used.
- Use sparklers responsibly and keep them out of the hands of young kids.
- Keep pets indoors – more pets run away during the 4th of July holiday than any other time during the year as a result of extreme fear from loud noises and bright lights.
- Don’t use fireworks near homes or other structures or near trees or brush piles.
- Have plenty of water and sand on hand in case a fire starts.
- And of course, follow all of the manufacturer’s directions to the letter.
One more tip: Before using any type of fireworks, check to make sure your homeowner’s insurance will cover any losses. If you’re using illegal fireworks, your policy may not offer coverage, and you could wind up having your insurance canceled.
The take-home message: Follow the law when planning 4th of July celebrations this year and keep things safe by enjoying your pyrotechnics at a public event. And give your insurance agent a call to make sure you have the coverage you need for any outdoor event you plan to host this summer.