Planning to celebrate New Year’s Eve with some fireworks? Doing it yourself can mean a criminal charge

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(WYDaily/Courtesy York County)
(WYDaily/Courtesy York County)

It may not be the Fourth of July, but New Year’s Eve is still a popular time for fireworks around the Virginia Peninsula.

Fire officials recommend leaving the impressive fireworks shows and explosives to the professionals.

Fireworks are illegal for personal use in the state of Virginia, including York County, James City County and Williamsburg, and York County Fire Chief Steve Kopczynski says it’s for good reason.

“I can vividly remember when the year 2000 rolled around, we had fireworks being used in a subdivision and it caught a house on fire,” Kopczynski said.

There were 12,900 fireworks-related injuries treated in U.S. hospital emergency rooms during calendar year 2017, according to a news release from York County.

Those who want to safely and professionally do a fireworks show need a permit issued by their locality’s fire marshal, according to code sections from James City County, York County and Willliamsburg.

Virginians caught possession, manufacturing, selling, storing, handling or using fireworks could be charged with a class 1 misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to 12 months in jail and a a $2,500 fine.

Click here for a full list of firework regulations in Virginia.

Besides potential property damage, fireworks also carry the risk of injury or death. Kopczynski said it’s hard to gauge how many injuries have been caused by firework use in the area, because injuries and burns may not be reported.

Some localities, including York County and James City County, have also banned sparklers.

Sparklers can burn between 1,200 and 2,000 degrees, which is hot enough to melt some metals.

Even if fireworks are for sale in other states, that doesn’t mean residents can use them.

“Often times, people think, ‘Well, I’m traveling down (Interstate) 95 and I’ll pick some up,” the chief said. “Well, it is still illegal.”

As an alternative, residents should attend a professional fireworks show.

“Folks have a tendency to use consumer fireworks at certain times of the year, and it’s not uncommon for folks to try to as New Year’s Eve is here,” Kopczynski said.

James City County asks residents to call 911 to report the use of fireworks by others.

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