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Planning to celebrate July 4 with some fireworks? Doing it yourself can mean a criminal charge

(Southside Daily file/Courtesy of Pixabay)
(Southside Daily file/Courtesy of Pixabay)

The Fourth of July is a popular time for fireworks around the Virginia Peninsula, but don’t spend America’s birthday in the hospital — or worse.

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 fire officials say 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,” York County Fire Chief Steve Kopczynski said.

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

More than 16,000 reported fires are started each year by fireworks, according to the National Fire Protection Agency.

Professionals need a permit issued by their locality’s fire marshal to put on a fireworks show, according to code sections from James City County, York County and Willliamsburg.

Virginians caught possessing, 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.

The National Fire Protection Agency opposes consumer use of fireworks, including sparklers and firecrackers.

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 Fahrenheit, 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.

James City County has previously said residents should call 911 to report the use of fireworks by others.

In addition to fireworks, the Fourth of July presents some other fire hazards as well.

July is the peak month for grill fires, according to the York County news release.

Grilling those hot dogs and hamburgers is an American July 4 tradition, but needs to be done away from flammable materials such as the side of the home, decking and tall grass. Grease and fat buildup should be cleaned from inside the grill and in the grill trays.

Propane grills also require some safety precautions: The tank and hose should be checked for leaks, and should not be used.

If the leak is noticed while cooking, or gas can be smelled while cooking, residents should call the fire department.

Editor’s note: A portion of this story was originally published Dec. 31, 2018.

Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing is the Assistant Editor at WYDaily. Sarah was born in the state of Maine, grew up along the coast, and attended college at the University of Maine at Orono. Sarah left Maine in October 2015 when she was offered a job at a newspaper in West Point, Va. Courts, crime, public safety and civil rights are among Sarah’s favorite topics to cover. She currently covers those topics in Williamsburg, James City County and York County. Sarah has been recognized by other news organizations, state agencies and civic groups for her coverage of a failing fire-rescue system, an aging agriculture industry and lack of oversight in horse rescue groups. In her free time, Sarah enjoys lazing around with her two cats, Salazar and Ruth, drinking copious amounts of coffee and driving places in her white truck.

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