Fireworks and the 4th of July: Is it legal?

(WVEC) -- When you think about the 4th of July you think about fireworks... but not so fast

If you think fireworks are legal in the Commonwealth of Virginia, you're wrong.

It's a first class misdemeanor and punishable by up to one year in jail. 

Here in Hampton Roads firework laws and regulations vary between the seven cities. 

Take a look at the rules and regulations where you live:

Norfolk: 

Sec. 17.1-44. Amendments and supplements.

(25) Fireworks prohibited: The manufacture of fireworks is prohibited within the jurisdiction. The possession or use of fireworks is prohibited within the city, except for fireworks approved by permit according to the rules and regulations of the fire official.

(26) Additional fireworks: In addition to the items defined as fireworks in other parts of this code (SFPC), the term fireworks shall include pinwheels, fountains and pharaoh serpents. The manufacture, sale, possession or use of any fireworks, without the permission of the fire official, is unlawful.

Sec. 25.2-42. Use and possession of fireworks and explosives.

(a) No person shall have in his possession, or set off or otherwise cause to explode or discharge or burn in any park, any firecrackers, torpedo rockets or other fireworks or explosives of inflammable material, or discharge them or throw them into any park from land or highways adjacent thereto. This prohibition includes any substance, compound, mixture or article which, when in conjunction with any substance or compound, would be dangerous from any of the foregoing standpoints.

(b) Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection (a) above, fireworks displays or shows may be authorized in a park by permit granted by the director and approved by the fire chief.

Virginia Beach:

Sec. 12-43.2. Fireworks and pyrotechnic displays unlawful; exceptions.
(a) Except as otherwise provided in this section it shall be unlawful for any person to transport, manufacture, assemble, store, sell, offer or display for sale, or to buy, use, possess, ignite or explode any firecracker, torpedo, sky rocket, sparkler, or other substance or device that contains any explosive or flammable compound or substance, and is intended or commonly known as fireworks, and which explodes, rises into the air or travels laterally, fires projectiles or discharges sparks into the air.

(b)The provision of this section shall not be applicable to (1) any organization or group of individuals which has been granted a permit by the fire official for the public or private display of fireworks or pyrotechnics, provided that such fireworks are stored, handled, transported and used in compliance with the terms and conditions of such permit; or (2) any federal, state or local government animal or fowl management agency agents acting within the scope of their lawful duties. Such agents shall provide the VBFMO with at least twenty-four (24) hours notice of intent to possibly employ pyrotechnic tactics.

(c)The fire marshal or any law enforcement officer shall be authorized to seize, take, remove or cause to be removed, at the expense of the owner, all fireworks offered or exposed for display or sale, stored or held in violation of this section.

(d)Violation of any provision of this section shall constitute a Class 1 misdemeanor.

Hampton:

The City of Hampton Prevention Code bans the use and possession of all fireworks, with the exception of sparklers. Permits are required for public or private display of fireworks or pyrotechnics. A million dollar bond and professionals trained to launch firecrackers are required to obtain a fireworks permit.


Certain types of fireworks, such as firecrackers, bottle rockets and roman candles, may be purchased legally in other areas, but may not be possessed or used in the City of Hampton. Bringing unapproved fireworks from other jurisdictions in to the City of Hampton is an illegal act that constitutes a Class 1 misdemeanor. Unapproved fireworks may be confiscated and the offending parties fined up to $1,200 and/or sentenced to up to one year in jail.

Newport News:

Sec. 16-20. - Fireworks permit required; permit fee.
                        (a)     It shall be unlawful for any person to own, sell, possess, store, display, use, explode or manufacture pinwheels, sparklers, fountains or Pharaoh's serpents without a permit issued by the fire marshal. A fee of two hundred fifty dollars ($250.00) shall be paid before such permit may be issued.
                        (b)     It shall be unlawful for any person to possess, display or explode any other fireworks without a permit issued by the fire marshal.
                        (c)     For purposes of this section, fireworks do not include pyrotechnic bird scaring devices.
(Ord. No. 4053-90, § 1; Ord. No. 4206-91, § 1; Ord. No. 6290-06; Ord. No. 6745-10, § 1) Editor's note— Ord. No. 6745-10 shall be in effect on and after January 1, 2011

Chesapeake:

5601.1.3 Fireworks. The possession, manufacture, storage, sale, handling and use of fireworks are prohibited.

Exceptions:

Storage and handling of fireworks as permitted in Section 5604.
Manufacture, assembly and testing of fireworks as permitted in Section 5605.
The use of fireworks for display as permitted in Section 5608.
5601.2.4 Financial responsibility. Before a permit is issued, as required by Section 5601.2, the applicant shall file with the jurisdiction a corporate surety bond in the principal sum of $1,000,000 or a public liability insurance policy for the same amount, for the purpose of the payment of all damages to persons or property which arise from, or are caused by, the conduct of any act authorized by the permit upon which any judicial judgment results. The legal department of the jurisdiction may specify a greater amount is required. Government entities shall be exempt from this bond requirement.

5601.2.4.2 Fireworks display. The permit holder shall furnish a bond or certificate of insurance of $1,000,000 for the payment of all potential damages to a person or persons or to property by reason of the permitted display, and arising from any acts of the permit holder, the agent, employees or subcontractors. Fireworks displays shall be in accordance with guidelines established by the Fire Code Official.

5602.1 (Definition) Permissible Fireworks. Paper caps for toy pistols, toy guns, toy canes or other devices which use such caps that contain less than .25 grains (16 mg) of explosive content per cap.

5608.11 Retail display and sale. Fireworks shall not be displayed for retail sale, sold or accessible to the public within the City of Chesapeake.

(d)Violation of any provision of this section shall constitute a Class 1 misdemeanor.

Portsmouth

Section 8.122: FIREWORKS, ETC., RESTRICTED

No  person  shall  exhibit  any  fireworks,  or  discharge  any  rockets,  squibs,  crackers  or  any preparation of gunpowder, or discharge any cannon, or other firearms, within the compact part of the  City,  on  any  street,  highway,  common  or  public  place,  unless  by  permission  of  the  City Manager, the City Council, or Police Commissioners.

Suffolk

Sec. 38-141. - Definitions.

The following words, terms and phrases, when used in this article, shall have the meanings ascribed to them in this section, except where the context clearly indicates a different meaning:

Fireworks means and includes any combustible or explosive composition, or any substance or combination of substances, or article prepared for the purpose of producing a visible or an audible effect by combustion, explosion, deflagration or detonation, and shall include blank cartridges, toy pistols, toy cannons, toy canes or toy guns in which explosives are used, the type of balloons which require fire underneath to propel the balloons, firecrackers, torpedoes, skyrockets, Roman candles, dago bombs, sparklers or other devices of like construction and any device containing any explosive or flammable compound, or any tablets or other devices containing any explosive substance; except that the term "fireworks" shall not include auto flares, paper caps containing not in excess of an average of 0.25 grain (16.2 mg) of explosive content per cap, and toy pistols, toy canes, toy guns or other devices for use of such caps, the sale and use of which shall be permitted at all times.

Sec. 38-142. - Manufacture, sale regulated.

(a) The manufacture of fireworks is prohibited within this jurisdiction. The display, sale or discharge of fireworks shall comply with this article.

(b) It shall be a violation of this Code for any person to store, to offer for sale, expose for sale, sell at retail, or use or explode any fireworks, except as provided in the rules and regulations issued by the fire official for the granting of permits for supervised public displays of fireworks by the jurisdiction, fair associations, amusement parks and other organizations.

(c) The fire marshal shall seize, take, remove or cause to be removed, at the expense of the owner, all stocks of fireworks offered or exposed for display or sale, stored or held in violation of this article.

Sec. 38-143. - Display applications.

Applications for the display of fireworks shall be submitted in writing to the city manager not less than 30 days prior to the event. Such application shall include the following information:

  1. Name and address of applicant.
  2. Date, time and place of the display.
  3. The name of the person who will operate the display. Every fireworks display must be handled by an experienced professional operator, approved by the fire official.
  4. A statement that the applicant will assume full liability for any injuries to any person or damages to any property that may be caused by the negligence of any person involved in the display, and that the applicant will hold the city harmless from all claims for injuries or damages. An insurance policy or surety bond may be required whenever the applicant fails to satisfy the city manager of its financial ability to satisfy possible claims.

Sec. 38-144. - Duties of display operator.

(a) Upon approval of the application required by section 38-143 by the city manager, the fireworks display operator shall do the following:

  1. Not less than 15 days prior to the date of the event, the display operator shall submit in writing a design or plan of the composition and mechanics of the display, including fire prevention plans as necessary, to the fire official for his approval. Evidence shall be given that the display will not be hazardous to property or endanger any person.
  2. The display operator shall make arrangements with the fire official to have a member of the city's department of fire and rescue present during the fireworks display, who shall be the fire official. The fire official shall have the authority to call off the display should he judge that weather conditions are not favorable or should some other hazardous situation arise. A reimbursement of costs for fire attendance at public display, established by the city council and on file in the city clerk's office fee should be paid by the applicant to the city with the submission of the aforesaid application required by section 38-143 to cover the cost of having the fire official present.
  3. Any fireworks that remain unfired after the display is concluded shall be immediately disposed of by the display operator in a safe manner approved by the fire official.

(b) Failure to comply with any provision of this section shall constitute grounds for the denial or revocation of the permit. 

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