COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – Most central Ohioans looking to put on a do-it-yourself firework display are largely out of luck.
Although Gov. Mike DeWine enacted a bill, which takes effect July 1, to expand the number of holidays in which Ohioans over the age of 18 can legally set off consumer-grade fireworks, the majority of central Ohio municipalities are keeping their fireworks prohibitions in place.
“There are physical dangers associated with fireworks, not only to those detonating them but to other people, animals and property in the vicinity,” Hilliard City Manager Michelle Crandall said in a news release. “Each year we hear that the noise of neighborhood fireworks causes anxiety and even panic among war veterans and residents’ pets.”
Ohio law relaxes consumer-grade fireworks restrictions
DeWine signed House Bill 172 into law in November, closing a long-exploited loophole that formerly allowed Ohio residents to purchase consumer-grade fireworks, like firecrackers and roman candles, in the state but not set them off.
In addition to allowing the sale of consumer-grade fireworks in Ohio, HB 172 permits the detonation of 1.4G consumer-grade fireworks, which is defined as having no more than 50 milligrams of flash powder for ground displays or 130 milligrams of flash powder for aerial displays on the following holidays:
- New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day
- Chinese New Year’s Day
- Cinco de Mayo
- Memorial Day weekend
- July 3, 4, and 5, and the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday immediately before and after July 4
- Labor Day weekend
Among the supporters of the relaxed statewide fireworks law is Danial Peart, director of government affairs for the Youngstown-based Phantom Fireworks, who testified in support of the bill before the Ohio Statehouse in March 2021.
The “antiquated fireworks laws” that exist in many municipalities across Ohio, Peart said, fail to represent the “real-world scenario” of residents’ use of consumer-grade fireworks.
“Our company floods our customers with safety messaging from the moment they walk through our doors until the moment they leave,” Peart said. “Experiences in other states have shown that with a focused, educational, message, legalizing consumer fireworks use can serve to decrease consumer injuries.”
Where can central Ohioans set off consumer-grade fireworks?
The bill, however, has an important caveat: local governments are permitted to implement or maintain their own fireworks bans — a provision that the majority of central Ohio cities are taking advantage of.
The city of Reynoldsburg, however, broke with neighboring municipalities when its city council voted 4-3 on June 13 to repeal its prohibition on the use of consumer-grade fireworks, mirroring the new statewide law.
But Reynoldsburg’s deregulation of fireworks, which allows residents to purchase and set off 1.4G consumer-grade fireworks on the same holidays as permitted under state law, will not go into effect until July 15.
New Albany will follow the new state law, allowing residents to set off bottle rockets and other consumer-grade fireworks, either on their own property or another person’s property so long as permission is granted.
“Although consumer fireworks are now permitted, the safest way to view fireworks is to attend a professional show,” according to the city of New Albany’s website. “It is best to leave the fireworks to the professionals.”
Whitehall residents will also be subject to the new statewide law, according to Megan Meyer, the deputy director of government affairs for the city.
Unlike city governments, townships in Ohio are required to abide by state law, according to Jefferson Township Fire Chief Brad Shull. That means residents in areas like Jefferson Township on the east and Prairie Township on the west can enjoy the state’s deregulation.
The following central Ohio areas maintain a ban, according to the municipalities’ ordinances and news releases:
- Canal Winchester
- Grandview Heights
- Grove City
- Upper Arlington
How to safely use fireworks
Nearly 16,000 people across the U.S. were treated in emergency departments for firework-related injuries in 2020, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission Fireworks Report.
Of those injuries, nearly 66% occurred during the one-month period surrounding the Fourth of July, the report found. And half of those injuries impacted bystanders, many of whom were children.
“Keep in mind that while sparklers may seem like harmless toys, they’re not without their risks,” Ken Klouda, chief of the Ohio Fire Marshal’s Fire Prevention Bureau, said in a news release. “Some of them can reach temperatures of up to 2,000 degrees and cause serious burn injuries, especially to young children.”
Not only do fireworks cause thousands of injuries every year, but the report found tens of thousands of fires are started nationwide due to fireworks, causing tens of millions of dollars in damage.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends the following guidelines for fireworks users:
- Don’t allow young children to handle fireworks
- Wear protective eyewear if using fireworks or standing nearby
- Don’t hold lit fireworks
- Never light fireworks inside
- Use fireworks away from people, houses and flammable materials
- Don’t try to re-light or handle malfunctioning fireworks
- Prior to discarding spent or unused fireworks, soak them in water for a few hours
- Keep water or a fire extinguisher nearby