Law Creates Definitions for Legal Fireworks

REGIONAL – Names like Apache Firedance, Morning Glory, Gold Sparkler, Warhead Rocket Fountain, Two Stage Outer Space Jet, and the Silver Salute conjure many exciting images of colorful, loud, and exciting types of fireworks filling up the darkened sky on a hot summer night but not all of those are legal fireworks.
A new state law signed by Governor Rell on June 9, 2006 defines “sparklers” and “fountains” as the only fireworks legal for sale and use by consumers.
Sparklers are a “wire or stick coated with pyrotechnic composition that produces a shower of sparks upon ignition,” according to Public Act 06-177, and
include the Morning Glory and Gold Sparkler.
Fountains are defined as “a cardboard of heavy paper cone or cylindrical tube containing pyrotechnic mixture that upon ignition produces a shower of colored sparks or smoke,” such as the Apache Firedance and Warhead Rocket Fountain.
Types of legal fountains, the act states, include a spike fountain, which can be inserted in the ground, a base fountain, that has a wooden or plastic base to be placed in the ground, or a handle fountain, a handheld device with a wooden or cardboard handle.
Old Saybrook Fire Marshal Don Dobson was hoping for a law banning all types of fireworks in Connecticut, which Rhode Island, New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Delaware have done because “people get hurt with the legal stuff.”
In testimony, Dobson gave to the Connecticut Public Safety and Security Committee on February 23, 2006, he said “in the fireworks season, our area medical facilities, on average treat between 15 and 25 people just in our region alone for fireworks-related mishaps. The unfortunate part here is that many of these treated are children.”
Sparklers first became legal in Connecticut in June 2000 and since then “the number of legal and illegal-related injures in my town alone, both reported and unreported have gone up almost 200%,” Dobson said.
In 2005, Dobson said, “an eight-year-old boy and his friend almost burned down a ten-unit condominium complex using ‘Connecticut legal fireworks’.”
In an effort to crack down on illegal fireworks in Connecticut, Dobson finished spending much of June visiting all stores in Old Saybrook and found close to 40 to 50 percent of stores were unaware they were selling illegal fireworks, Dobson said.
Items illegal for purchase and use, Dobson said, include novelty items, illegal fireworks and explosive devices.
Non-explosive smoke bombs, solar flares, snakes and snaps, and party poppers are novelty items.
Other illegal fireworks include jumping jack, missiles, sky rockets with sticks including the Two Stage Outer Space Jet, helicopters, mortars, roman candles, bottle rockets, regular firecrackers, and Lady Finger firecrackers.
While explosive devices such as the Silver Salute are legal in other states, the U.S. Government has declared cherry bombs and M-80s illegal in all states.
Stores in Connecticut selling legal fireworks must meet the National Fire Protection Association requirements.
Requirements prohibit consumer fireworks from being displayed or stored within 5 feet of an entrance and limit a store’s quantity to 1,000 lbs if the store has an automatic sprinkler store and 500 lbs for stores without sprinklers.
“We could confiscate the difference but we try to make people aware of the law and give them time to comply,” Dobson said, adding that stores call their vendors to haul away fireworks exceeding the limit.
“So far we have had no habitual offenders,” Dobson said.
Public Act 06-177 states those selling or setting off illegal fireworks in Connecticut could face imprisonment up to 90 days and/or fined up to $100, “except if death or injury results from any such violation” increasing penalties up to 10 years in prison and/or a fine up to $10,000.
Dobson estimates about 35 states legally allow the sale or use of fireworks including New Hampshire and Pennsylvania.

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