Fire officials remind Vermonters fireworks are illegal to set off without permit

Published: Jul. 3, 2020 at 7:58 AM EDT
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When the sun goes down this holiday weekend, most big fireworks shows are canceled because of coronavirus and that's leaving some to try to make their own fun.

While backyard fireworks seem fun, local crews call them dangerous and illegal.

"It's like using a firearm, you need to know where the fireworks are going to be going when you shoot them off," South Burlington Fire Chief Terry Francis said.

Down from 120 to just 12, that's how many shows Northstar Fireworks crews still have this fourth of July holiday.

Ninety percent of their shows have been canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Local and state police say they're aware there is a chance now people will take a different approach to the light show extravaganzas.

"The challenge we have this year and we have had a few inquires already is individuals using fireworks in their residential areas, that they have purchased here in Vermont," Francis said.

He says the challenge doesn't just start when someone decides to light the device, it actually starts with Vermont's laws surrounding fireworks.

"We have a little bit of a problem here in Vermont; it's legal for people here in Vermont to sell the fireworks that are licensed and permitted, but you as an individual are not allowed to use them. It's pretty clear," Francis said.

According to Vermont law, you can be hit with fines for using fireworks illegally. All fireworks require permits in Vermont, except novelty fireworks like sparklers.

Some insurance companies will also not insure you for fireworks-related injuries or damage if you are in a state where it is illegal. But besides just being illegal, fireworks can be dangerous if misused

"The most common things that get people hurt are using fireworks after they have been drinking, allowing children to use fireworks. The law says they have to be used by a competent operator," said Paul White, the former bomb squad commander for the Vermont State Police.

White says if people decide to take the risk with fireworks, people should at least do it safely.

"You have to be an adult. It means you have to be sober, you have to be doing it in a safe manner, shooting them in a safe location, be aware of your surroundings, be respectful of your neighbors, be aware of the risk of fire that they pose," said White.

Francis also says if you have purchased fireworks and now do not want to use them, you can always try to return them if they are unopened, or you can soak them in water for about 10 minutes and throw them away.

But even without fireworks, for some, the lack of professional light shows is a welcomed chance to relax for the holiday weekend.

"No fireworks this year, so we are going to have a low-key Fourth of July and barbecue something fun and just hang out at home. We understand and it's better to be safe. We are happy to support that and the Fourth of July will come again next year and all the celebrations will be back again next year," said Karla Karstens of Williston.

Even legal fireworks like sparklers burn at 1800 degrees, so remember to play it safe.